A Prayer for When Your Child Comes to You at Bedtime with an Itchy Head
This is one of those moments when I am, admittedly, not giving thanks for the diversity of life in your creation. I just found something crawling on my kid’s head. I am full of loathing and despair.
But my daughter, on realizing that she’s hosting an infestation, is undone. She is ashamed, and disgusted, crying. She’s also exhausted. Her bedtime has come and gone and sleep has eluded her; she could not settle, she kept itching. Her upset is magnified; her tears are multiplied.
Grant me calm, Mother God. Let me speak words of assurance to her; help me cast out her shame. Give me the heart to speak and believe: I know it’s awful, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Kids get lice all the time. We get notes from the school nurse every other week.
Grant me patience, steadfast God. As she leans over the tub and we shampoo her hair, remind me to ask her if the water’s temperature is okay. Help me to make her comfortable as I work the chemicals through her hair. Guide my hand so that I don’t pull too harshly on tangles; work in me so that I don’t snap at her if she flinches.
Open my eyes to each and every pernicious freaking nit that I might destroy them with impunity. Forgive me my desire for vengeance on insects and joy in committing entomological infanticide. Help me take moderate pleasure in my new experiential knowledge of the literal meaning of nit-picking and going over something with a fine-toothed comb. Limit how obnoxious I sound as I tell my kid that the singular of lice is louse, “just like the singular of mice is mouse.”
Hear my thanks for in-home laundry, as we shove stuffed animals in the dryer for at least twenty minutes, and as we wash everything on hot. Hear my thanks for a partner who helps: who sits with the baby when she wakes in the middle of this fiasco; who changes out of his pajama pants and runs to the pharmacy on a winter night. Hear my thanks for a pediatrician who responds to text messages and calls in prescriptions and sends links to coupons long after hours.
As this banal ordeal comes to a close, help my child fall quickly to sleep. Let me welcome her into my arms and bed. Calm my fears and psycho-somatic scratching. And please, please, dear God of power and might, deliver my other kids, my spouse and I from this plague. In all this, help me to be the loving parent I long to be.
In the name of Jesus, who probably had lice at some point, too.
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