I am not 100% sure if we are middle class, but I think we live like we are. We live in the Midwest (so we aren’t paying LA rent or Alaska milk prices) and my husband is in a union so health insurance is an included part of the package and not a deduction from his check or something we have to pay for separately. The “Middle Class Mondays” series covers things I’ve always felt would be different when we had what I consider “enough” money and how those experiences compare to how things used to be for us or how they compare to how things were when I was a child.
When I was in Junior High we lived in California. A little town that no one has heard of if you didn’t live in it or near it. The most exciting thing that ever happened was a drug lab a few doors down and across the street burned to the ground one day.
It was the kind of town where a guy with no legs would sit in his wheelchair on the porch morning and afternoon waiting for me to walk by on my way to school so he could shoot rubber bands at me. Across the street from him was a large, barren yard with three very angry large dogs that would bark and jump against the rickety, old chain link fence every morning and afternoon as I walked by. I quickly learned to walk in the middle of the street, but if a car came by I would have to choose the fence that didn’t seem stable with the very angry dogs or getting welts from rubber bands on my arms and legs.
You know, that kind of town.
The Junior High was mostly in a building but there were also trailers out back to deal with the overcrowding that was a serious problem.
When a lice outbreak hit, it was rough on everyone. My mother yelled about how expensive lice shampoo was and how long my hair was and how awful the town was but she bought some and took care of my hair. I’m sure it cost her in some other area, because we didn’t have extra money ever when I was a kid. That’s where the yelling came from. Something unexpected can turn your world upside down without having to be something large like a broken-down car.
The house with the angry dogs? They had two boys and a girl. That family decided the best route for lice removal was to shave their children’s heads. There was no way they could afford lice shampoo. The next day at school the girl was wearing a ski cap. In California. In May. I felt terrible for her. It’s the first time I really remember feeling terrible for another human being. She was so unhappy.
Here in the present day, my youngest got lice from kindergarten. I called our family doctor and she called in prescriptions for Sklice. Sklice doesn’t burn, doesn’t smell bad, and you put it on dry hair. You don’t even have to comb the bugs and eggs out (but I do anyway because I’m good at doing it without hurting the kids). I found a coupon online that I printed at home reducing the price of the bottle to $10/ea.
The problem is the doctor’s office phoned in a prescription for regular Nix on accident and when we discovered the error (CVS called us to let us know!) the office was closed. I had to treat the kids so I went to CVS and bought the normal stuff off the shelf and treated the kids and us that night for about $60 total. The next morning I got a call from the doctor’s office apologizing for the mistake and letting me know the problem had been corrected and the right prescription was ready at the pharmacy.
Even though we had all been treated already I went and picked up the prescription stuff because it can’t hurt to have good lice stuff in your bathroom closet, right? So I got the four prescriptions for another $40.
At no point did I complain, yell, wail, gnash my teeth, or freak out. I just got the stuff and did the thing and sent everyone back to school the next day. We treated all the stuffed animals and comforters and couch cushions (they fit in the washer, hallelujah) and that was that.
Last week we got another note that the class had lice again. I trimmed my youngest daughter’s hair, did another treatment, combed her out, and she was done. Again. There is a lot of hassle involved in washing all the things but I have a washer and dryer right here in the basement of my housepartment and so it’s not that bad. I don’t even pay for water in this building so the hot water to sanitize everything isn’t my problem except the gas to heat the water.
Two entire lice treatments were covered by the $100 buffer I keep in my checking account. Not even the emergency fund. The “just in case we go over” money. The first time one of the kids got lice a million years ago I was so much more like my mom. Where will that money come from? How are we going to make this work? Why is this happening to us? It was overwhelming and stressful.
While the annoyance of having to do all the lice things was still there, the stress was not. It amazed me how different the experience was when that expensive shampoo doesn’t break the bank, even when you’re buying it for three kids and two adults.
Even now after round two I still have one more full bottle of Sklice in my bathroom closet. I’m looking forward to summer because I feel like my kid’s kindergarten is a hotbed of lice right now. My stylist says it’s been absolutely awful everywhere this year. She would know. Also, I’m not going to lie I did start out looking for a service to take care of the whole situation for me but I don’t care if there’s a money back guarantee, I trust my combing skills more than someone else’s … even if it is their profession.
So that’s the transition. From catastrophic life-event to something you keep extra of in the bathroom closet, how a school lice outbreak affects a family is so much different here in the middle class.