My daughter did what to herself?!

Our elder has some encouraging words for a letter writer whose daughter was curious to see what head lice felt like. Kids will be kids…

Dear EWC

This past weekend, I noticed that my high school age daughter seemed to be scratching her head quite a bit. I asked her what the problem was and she calmly relayed to me that she had head lice. I was shocked and alarmed, of course, and couldn’t understand how she could be so casual about this. I asked her why she hadn’t said anything. Her answer? She had deliberately contracted them. A few weeks back, it seems, a friend of hers had confided that she had head lice. My daughter expressed that she was curious to know what having lice is like and so the friend agreed to infect her. They then sat on the friend’s bed, back to back with their heads together, while they listened to music. Naturally, I put an end to this and helped her with disinfecting her hair, clothes, and bed linens. I’m still not sure we got them all. I’m knocking on wood, hoping we did. I honestly don’t know what to make of all this. My daughter has no history of self-harm or other mental/emotional issues. She insists she did this strictly out of curiosity. I know teenagers will sometimes do crazy things, but this seems a step beyond. But maybe I’m just overreacting. Could this really be nothing more than a really dumb decision on her part? What do you think?

William replies

Thanks for taking the time to write. When I read your words, it reminded me of many of the stupid things I did as a youth, a teenager, and even into early adulthood. I experimented with cigarettes. I also tried marijuana, and I had a few beers here and there when I was underage. Why? Curiosity, wanting to fit in with the rest, or sometimes just poor judgment because I was still growing up and maturing. I’m still here in my seventh decade, and I don’t think any of the things I mentioned (and a few I am ashamed to tell anyone) altered my life very much. Think back to when you were an adolescent. If you didn’t do a few dumb things, then you’re not human! We all do silly things.

The above paragraph was to put things in perspective. I’ve never heard of a person purposefully infecting themselves with anything like that. In the grand scheme of “things” one could get, it was/is pretty innocuous. I know, because I had head lice, as did all of my four now-adult children. We didn’t “self infect,” but they were more of a nuisance to get rid of than a danger. If one of my kids had done this on purpose and it wasn’t something that could be transferred to others, I suppose I would have told them it would be a couple of weeks before I could get the time to disinfect them. I say this because I always learned best not to repeat my self-inflicted dumb mistakes if I had to live with the consequences. However, head lice spread easily and quickly, so you did the right thing.

I just re-read your letter, and I reiterate that I think you handled the situation well. I don’t believe this is the beginning of a pattern of bad behavior. I don’t know your daughter, but you indicate this came out of the blue and she’s not prone to taking risks. We can’t read minds, but my best guess is it was a combination of curiosity and wanting to fit in. Even though lice are relatively easy to get rid of, the procedure isn’t entirely painless, and I’m sure you expressed your displeasure. I am pretty sure she won’t do it again. Don’t think there is something psychologically wrong with her. Chalk it up to kids being kids.
As parents, it’s always a challenge to know how to react to our kid’s behavior. Everyone looks at things differently. Some of the things I did that I now believe to be terrible my parents shrugged off as nothing. Other things I thought were pretty innocent got me a stern talking to. I’d wager my kids felt the same way. Based on our life’s experiences, we tend to view things in one way, and that way only. Also, every generation seems to have different rules, and they are ever-changing. We do our best to keep them out of trouble, to ensure they are doing well in school, and we have to trust that, on the whole, they will use common sense and mature into successful adults.

You strike me as a good parent. Someone who got thrown a bit of an unexpected curveball, and who handled it well. I hope I’m not belittling your concerns, and I’m glad you asked for an impartial opinion. Parenting is a “learn as you go” job, as you are finding out. Based on everything you’ve written, I think you are doing just fine.
To conclude, don’t take this as the beginning of a pattern of bad behavior. You daughter knows now it was a dumb thing to do. Let it go, and don’t be concerned that she’s headed down the wrong path. Kids experiment with being silly. Think back and ponder why you did some of the things you did when you were her age.
I hope this helped a little. Take care!

Letter #: 445704
Category: Children

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