Anyone with a child at primary school knows that at the end of each school day, you run the risk of picking up a few extra passengers for the journey home. Yes, I’m talking about nits and worms, the scourge of the Primary School Parent.
It seems to me that the true curse of nits and worms is not in the infestation itself but in the constant threat of it. I walk around on a hair-trigger. The second I see anyone raise their hand to their head, I instantly morph into OCD Woman, pinning the offending child down to the ground while I pick through their hair like some kind of crazed primate. And way before that little hand gets stuck too far into the undies, I’ve already reached out for the Combatrin “special chocolates”, which, at $19.99 for 24 tiny squares, work out to be more expensive than a dozen hand-molded pralines from Koko Black. But of course, no amount of praline will stop your arse from itching.
The school does its best to educate both students and parents in order to prevent a pandemic. According to the information sheet in front of me, symptoms of threadworm – apart from the obvious itchy bum – are listed as being “restless sleep”, “irritability” and “loss of appetite”. Which pretty much describes my children in perfect health. So much for the info sheet.
But hang on, what’s this? To confirm a diagnosis, the sheet goes on to suggest, you must “look for moving worms around the anus an hour after the child has gone to bed”. What the…? Folding a piece of tissue paper in half three rooms away is usually enough to wake Tiddles “Bedroom Sentry” McGee, let alone carrying out a strip search on him or anyone else in the vicinity. And what if the child you’re examining wakes up while you’re shining a flashlight up their bum crack? Hmmm… Sounds like something devised by the Australian Association of Psychiatrists in order to drum up future business. Surely there’s an easier way?
Phew! According to the info sheet, there is one more way to identify a case of threadworm and that is to look to “see if there are worms on the outside surface of bowel motions”. Ummm…. so how exactly am I supposed to do this? Scoop it out of the toilet and put it under the toy microscope? Or maybe even get the kids to defecate on a glass coffee table so that I might easily examine all surfaces… Now hang on a dog-darn moment, there’s those tricksy psychologists making us theirs stool stooges again…
So much for the info sheet. As I happen upon Mr Justice running his own information session for his siblings, I reflect that I am lucky to have the Wisdom of Children to fall back on.
“In some other countries, maybe even Perth, they have big worms,” Mr Justice begins with great enthusiasm. “They live in your stomach and when you eat food, the worm eats the food! And you grow really thin!! And then you die!!!”
I interrupt to point out that Perth, although far away and full of Perth People, is actually in the same country as us.
“Oh yeah,” says Mr Justice. “I meant other countries like London… Brazil… Great Britain. We have to be careful if we go there not to get catched by a worm.”
Okay, okay. So much for the Wisdom of Children route.
There’s simply no way around it: by the time The Pixie and Tiddles McGee reach school-age, I’ll either have had to invent some kind of simultaneous scalp-arse-scratching device or I’ll just have to wrap the kids in clingwrap Christo-style before they go to school each day. Except on Thursdays, which is Litter-Free Lunch day, of course.