The Playroom: Nit-picking

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

This is my “Mom Brain” in action. I’m in a book store browsing titles, and I do a double-take on History and Lice, which was what I read on the spine of a book called History and Life.

I’m terrified of lice. More than hurricanes, earthquakes or escalators. I fear the day my kid comes home with nits, and I have to wash the kids, everything they own, everything I own, the car, the entire house and the shrubbery in hot water and special shampoo that costs more than it should because I would pay anything for a product that gets rid of lice.

Head lice is so prevalent in the Chicago suburbs it’s not even a stigma anymore, but the school office still sends home innocuous memos on screaming orange paper,

“This is to calmly inform you that a child in your child’s class has head lice, so don’t freak out.”

Well, who is it?

Within about 15 minutes after pick-up at school, the Momfia knows everything and descends on the mother of the afflicted child with a list of women who will come to your house to shave your kids head or, in the case of a girl with long, really long, red hair like my daughter, wash and comb and comb and wash and comb.

We have distribution channels set up for special rosemary spray that is supposed to deter lice and costs about $400 a spray bottle. We’ve got a product list of soaps and suds to use to wash every potholder and scrap of sheets and bed linens in your house and a phone chain and we all know who to call when the first nit is spotted.

A woman I know, not yet a full-fledged Momfia member, recently commented to me, “Lice? We have lice at school?”

Of course we’ve got lice, this is the suburbs.

Our kids share lockers and car pools, and they throw coats in giant heaps on the floor of the art room. All those little lice just jumping gleefully from one hoody to the next with their little lice jaws chomping, waiting for that long, red hair.

Lice at our school even made it to an agenda item at the PTO meetings, which downgraded quickly from discussing ways to stop the incipient spread and protecting our children to whether or not Labradoodles, Goldendoodles and Schnoodles could get lice from children, since they supposedly had hair and not fur.

As I was sucking the sugar off a Munchkin all I could think was, “I am so bored here. I do not care about your (grown-up word) ’Doodle, and protecting your dog from getting lice is so not the point of this agenda item.”

So after finishing my Munchkin I took a deep, calming breath, which I try to do often during PTO meetings. I told them, the PTO members concerned about their ’Doodles, that this discussion was a wasting our time, their dogs have absolutely nothing to do with the mission statement of the PTO, and then I told them dogs don’t get lice from children, not even ‘Doodles.

And then I got schnoodled.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at