The title has dual meanings. The unintentional message was discovered by my deep-thinking sister, who said, “It’s like you! You’re unique. You do things your own way. You wear your own hat. And you should be teaching people that they shouldn’t live life doing what others tell them to do. It’s symbolic.”
In a way my sister was right, though I wasn’t deep-thinking enough to come up with that idea on my own. I love the concept of sending a message that people should do their own thing, and not try and fit into someone else’s idea of how you should be living. I’ve spent most of my life questioning my choices based on the fear of what others might think about me. Yet I’m getting to a place where I feel much more confident in my own choices and decisions. I’m wearing my own hat. And I hope you do, too.
Now that we have the deep stuff out of the way, I would be a complete fake if I didn’t tell you where the title really came from.
When I was around 4 years old, I had a neighborhood friend named Dawn. I would go to her house to play Candy Land, and I would cheat and win frequently. Looking back, that was a really crappy thing to do. Dawn’s family didn’t celebrate holidays for religious reasons, so she was a 4-year old with little excitement in her life. The least I could have done was given her the glory of a few Candy Land victories.
Perhaps because of her strict religious upbringing, Dawn was a really serious girl, and she had distinct rules about things. One of Dawn’s rules came down from her really serious mother, “Never wear anyone else’s hat.” I had no clue what that meant, but Dawn’s solemn delivery resonated. To this day, if I’m with my mother and someone’s trying on a hat, we’ll look at each other and say, “NEVER wear anyone else’s hat!” in very serious 4-year-old voices.
I’ll give you two guesses what Dawn was talking about. She was not revealing secret Cowboy Code (true cowboys are really weird about their hats). Whether she knew it or not, Dawn was talking about lice.
If your kid has ever been sent home from school because of lice, keep reading so we can commiserate and gross out together. If you’ve managed to miss this vile rite of passage, quit gloating, and come back when I tell the miraculous story about how my kids managed to escape ever having hand-foot-and-mouth disease.
Finding out your kid has lice is one of the worst things that can happen to family. I’m no entomologist, but in my experience there are two types of kids: the kind that lice love, and the kind that lice ignore. I won’t reveal which of my three kids ended up in the latter category, but let’s just say that’s the kid who doesn’t have long hair.
The first time the school called to let us know about a lice outbreak, I immediately turned into Sarah Jessica Parker in the terrible movie, I Don’t Know How She Does It. I began experiencing phantom itchiness from head to toe. My husband, a much less dramatic sort, got busy doing load after load of laundry. He fought off our terrorized preschooler as he shoved 14,000 stuffed animals into garbage bags for a week-long vacation to our garage. I called my sister, who has gone above and beyond to help me with parenting emergencies countless times, and invited her to come over for a lice-removal party. And she actually showed up, even though she has the thickest hair in our family and put herself at great risk. God bless that woman.
I will spare you the details on how to have a proper lice removal party, because it's disgusting. And because we've had a few unfortunate practice rounds, we now have it down to a science, and I feel it's my civic duty to share best practices. So if you learn nothing else from what I have to offer, at least consider the following. You will thank me one day.
Amy Arndt’s Lice Survival Kit
o LED flashlight
o White bowl of hot water
o Metal drugstore lice comb (with very thin teeth)
o Prescription lice shampoo
o Disney Channel
o Industrial-sized container of laundry soap
o 4 couple’s counseling appointments
o Case of red wine
A few things to note: Send your husband to buy the lice comb. If he grumbles, tell him to grab a Playboy while he’s at it so if the embarrassment of buying a lice comb bothers him, the promise of wife-approved nudie pic ogling will keep him on task. As for Disney Channel, it may be obnoxious, but it will keep your kid still for 6 hours straight, and you’ll need that time, especially the first time you’re navigating the rough waters of this terrible experience. The couple's counseling is also hugely important, because I’ll bet you money that at least 15% of divorces happen because of domestic lice infestations. And the case of red wine is the most obvious item. It will gently soothe you as you handle the immense guilt that comes with realizing you and your family members are dirty, foul sloths who should be ashamed of yourselves for having kids in the first place.
Most importantly, take the time to get your pediatrician to prescribe the heavy duty prescription lice shampoo. I am certain that this glorious mixture is the reason that I am now able to knock out lice within mere hours.
However, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I didn’t warn you about the prescription shampoo. It’s so toxic that it turns my hands white for hours, so my husband has to do the hair-washing while I watch Disney Channel and drink wine. I read through the possible side effects, and while it’s not stated in black and white, it’s pretty evident that this shampoo will cause you or your child to grow an extra toe. But the way I look at it, what’s an extra toe here or there when you have a lice-free home? Just add a pair of industrial scissors to the Lice Survival Kit, cut out a space on your shoes for an extra toe, and get on with life.