One very cool crisp morning in 1999 I was standing in line at the Eiffel Tower with Maddie - she was only just five at the time. I ruffled her hair and said 'Are you sure you don't want a hat on? It's freezing.' And to my horror I noticed small black insects marching up her parting - I'm not joking, it was like an African Safari! Immediately I was cramming her woollen beanie on her head looking frantically up and down the line to see if anyone else had noticed. The couple behind me were from Rockhampton and we had been having an amicable chat - next thing I'm behaving like a mad woman and they have chosen to put some serious distance between us by giving up their place and going to the back of the line!
Later in the day we went into a pharmacy, and in my really poor high school French, I stood pointing at Maddie's head saying 'Petite animaux...dans le cheveux!' I'm sure you've got the picture!
We had been travelling through South East Asia, Italy, Switzerland and southern France for five weeks... we both had itchy heads which I put down to too much indoor heating and not rinsing our hair properly of shampoo because of the notoriously bad European plumbing. I just knew while I was stuttering away with my Berlitz language book in hand that my head was full of them too!
Head lice... they strike cold fear through every parent. My head is itching just writing this! Head lice know no bounds - they are present in every school no matter the socio-economic level, how old the school is or how many children attend. And the only way to get rid of them is through sheer hard work! Brushes and combs in a plastic bag in the freezer, wash all bed linen and clothes that your child's head has come into contact with, vacuum furiously (for days if necessary), treat your child's head, (check your own and every other family member), individually pull out every egg, and then cross your fingers that everyone in your child's class has done the same. If they haven't, the chance of reinfection is high.
And unfortunately some don't see the African Safari until it's too late and these little critters have marched into everyone's hair again!
Take heart though. As children get older they do stop getting them - just make sure you always travel with a language translator (there's an app for it now) so you don't get caught out in a foreign pharmacy stammering away about small animals in someone's hair.