All Hail Pearls Before Swine and Stephan Pastis!

Stephan Pastis, forgive me for reprinting this here, but we are so on your side! And you are on ours! Here’s the link to Stephan’s reirayaran
Facebook page
, and his website, and — heck — his Twitter feed. And his road tour calendar! And for those who can’t read the strip because it’s too small on your phone, the script is below!



When I was a kid, my dad drove me around in the back of his pickup truck.

When I was a kid I flew across the country by myself.

When I was a kid I spent every summer day in my friend’s swimming pool and his parents were rarely home.*

When I was a kid I ate everything I dropped on the ground and some stuff that was already there.

When I was a kid, every injury I got was treated with a pat on the head and a ‘Walk it off.’


(Stephan’s sister or sister-in-law hands him a piece of paper): Here’s his list of allergies, some games that improve his cognitive skills. And please stay within 18 inches of him at all times.

Stephan to nephew: I don’t know whether to feel sorry for you or me.

Nephew: Let’s go crazy and eat trans fats.

*The asterisk is mine, because swimming without supervision is yada, yada, yada.

Now let’s just bask in the genius. – L.




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41 Responses to All Hail Pearls Before Swine and Stephan Pastis!

  1. TraceyMartel March 25, 2017 at 11:15 pm #

    While I appreciate the sentiment I get very offended when allergies are always lumped into this helicopter parenting trend. Food allergies are a legit medical disease. They are not made up and they are on the rise through no fault of the parents or the kids. My son developed a life threatening allergy to eggs and peanuts before he could even walk. That however has nothing to do with helicopter parenting.

  2. James Pollock March 25, 2017 at 11:34 pm #

    It is perhaps worth remembering the Stephan Pastis is a trained and qualified lawyer.

  3. Jenny Islander March 26, 2017 at 12:22 am #

    Yes @TraceyMartel, and also the “walk it off” thing. I was told to “walk off” Osgood-Schlatter Syndrome, which means that mumblety years later my knees still hurt and I can’t kneel. The response that actually would have fixed it was, “OK, let’s take it easy for two weeks–rest, ice, and elevation–and then do some basic PT.” But I was inculcated with the “walk it off, you baby” doctrine to the point that I didn’t even think about icing my knees myself.

    Also, upper arm fractures in young children are infamous for being “not that bad” because they heal so quickly–but not always straight.

  4. Paul Adasiak March 26, 2017 at 3:27 am #

    I understand the point, Ms. Skenazy, and I’m nearly always with you. But any argument along the lines of “I did X, Y, Z, as a child, and I turned out just fine” suffers from selection bias: of COURSE the speaker turned out fine; the ones who didn’t are dead and aren’t around to give us their input.

  5. Dan March 26, 2017 at 7:49 am #

    What you say is true however the is an increasing concensus amongst those who study allergies that one of the fundamental causes of allergy is helicopter parenting babies….
    The hypothesis goes (and as yet it has not been conclusively proven) that by disinfecting and sterilising every single surface that a young baby ever comes in contact with and by obsessively disinfecting their hands with alcahol gel etc they are not exposed to the natural environment and its large array of generally benign microorganisms as a result their immune system never gets the chance to develop properly which can result in it having an over the top response to various triggers as it has but managed to learn what is a proportionate response.

  6. TraceyMartel March 26, 2017 at 9:23 am #

    Then how come my other twin does not have a food allergy? That theory does not pan out. I had twins with no nanny or help-I did not have time to clean that much. I was too busy trying to rock babies and feed babies and maybe if I am lucky get 10 minutes of sleep before they woke up again.

    That “Theory” is just a way to blame parents for their kids medical problems and I don’t allow that for one second. You would never blame a parent for giving their kid pediatric cancer, so why food allergies?

  7. Gina March 26, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    Overall, the sentiment is a good one, of course. BUT:

    –Unsupervised swimming (depending on age) and riding in the back of a pick-up are ACTUALLY dangerous. Two causes of young children dying in Arizona that are FREQUENT.

    –FOOD ALLERGIES: I think it’s true that SOME kids do have life-threatening food allergies, but there are also MANY moms who overuse the term “allergy”. Also, Tracey, the way that sanitizing the environment causes allergies may not be so specific to the actual child or family; it’s the overall environment that kids are growing up in…there is just so much clean…everywhere…intended to protect kids. When I worked in preschool, I truly believed the licensing rules were killing the immune systems of kids instead of protecting them.

  8. Catherine Caldwell-Harris March 26, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

    @TraceyMartel The hygiene hypothesis has a lot of support and is considered important by many experts. I actually haven’t even seen it critiqued. So how could one twins have an allergy and another not? If one child has a strong genetic loading to develop allergies, then the household environment doesn’t matter.

    Scientists recently argued that adults’ slobber (saliva) is a protective factor for infants. (As long as the adult doesn’t have a cold or flu at the moment.) Adults who aren’t at the moment sick carry around with them a healthy biome; infants and toddlers benefit if they can get exposed to it via being snuggled, kissed and held. Dog slobber also beneficial (some researchers claim). Best are adults who don’t bathe every day. The new wisdom is that bathing every day ruins the biome.

  9. Kenny Felder March 26, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    Fantastic!!! Going right on my Facebook. And I hope that the mathematically astute commentator Paul Adasiak will take a moment to look up the statistics and find out how incredibly few kids were actually hurt by these practices.

  10. SanityAnyone? March 26, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    @Dan – it might go further back than the problem of helicoptering over babies. I just watched an interesting series about new understanding of the birth microbiome and its likely critical role in initializing our immune system with beneficial bacteria, which has been physically transferred and perfected for tens of thousands of years. The baby lives in a mostly sterile environment until birth. At that moment, they are bodily covered with, inhale, drink and eat a wide array of beneficial bacteria. They liken the bacteria on our skin and inside us to the full importance of an additional organ.

    I am not trying to start a mommy war here, but there is evidence that a excessively high cesarean rate (often promoted by fear tactics), immediately washing newborns, and bottle feeding may contribute to the population’s rise of certain health issues. They are just now making these connections and no one can be blamed for not understanding it.

    It’s fascinating to see how allowing infants to experience “dirty” birth and “dirty” natural skin might set them up for a longer, healthier life. and other sources.

    Parents definitely want to do the right thing for their kids, but we might have been misled.

  11. Catherine Caldwell-Harris March 26, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    There were practices in our parents’ generation that were not safe, as in pickup truck and swimming without supervision. But the pendulum swung too far.

    I say this even tho my own parents did not do enough to keep me safe. As a 5 year old girl I walked to kindergarten on my own, in a region of east LA called Highland Park. There be gangs there. As a12 year old girl I was expected to ride my bike to the bike shop and get the brakes fixed on my own. This was in Cairo Egypt, where the bike mechanics leered at me and took my money without adequately fixing the brakes or informing me they couldn’t be fixed. My parents then nagged me to get the bakes fixed and alas I couldn’t explain to them why I thought going back to that bike shop was pointless. I was in a bad bike accident as a 12 yo girl and have life-long foot, leg and hip problems. (my entire left foot is skin grafted and I can not walk with ease.) But I’m still a free-ranger. yes, bad things happened back then when parents did unsafe practices, but my parents’ intent was right: to teach me to be self-reliant and resilient. And this is why my twin boys roam their safe surburban neighbor with gusto, even when all the other kid are indoors.

  12. NY Mom March 26, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

    Yesterday the expert installing my geothermal system offered me UV.
    What’s that for, asked I.
    Kills bacteria, said he.
    I am fine with bacteria, I replied.
    My son agreed with me.

  13. Dean March 26, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

    Back of the truck. Used to be, whole Boy Scout troops would be transported to camp with all their equipment in the back of a stake truck, not unlike the way military personnel are still taken to the field.
    In México, it is still pretty common to see whole families, or other groups of people riding in the family “limousine”, a “peek-op”. Everyone simply doesn’t face forward and smile, thus avoiding the danger of getting bugs on their teeth.

  14. TraceyMartel March 26, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    My babies only got a sponge bath once a week so I definitely did not bathe them too much. Again when you have twins with no nanny or help-you don’t have time for a lot of “extra” stuff.
    I did have to bottlefeed and do a c section but that was not something that could be helped as that was my own medical issues.

    I just think this can easily fall into parent shaming which is what free range kids was supposed to be against

  15. Papilio March 26, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    And of course she has him on a leash and he keeps the helmet on 24/7… 🙂

    “because swimming without supervision is yada, yada, yada”

    Does it count if there’s still a crazy show host and a camera crew?

    “And for those who can’t read the strip because”
    you won’t admit you need reading gla [*BACKSPAAAAACE*]
    “it’s too small on your phone” 😀

  16. Papilio March 26, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

    “All Hail Pearls Before Swine and Stephan Pastis!”

    In that specific order? Just checking

  17. Coccinelle March 26, 2017 at 3:53 pm #


    No one is shaming you, you did everything you could do and it just happened like that. But if some new information is revealed that could potentially help future children and their parents, it should not be kept secret just because some people would feel like it shames them. This kind of information is important and need to be talked about, everyone can decide what they do or can do with it but it still better than if no one knows.

  18. Flossy73 March 26, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

    “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road.” Henry Ward Beecher

  19. donald March 26, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    Sometimes ‘just run it off’ is the worst things that a person can do. When this happens, it’s very easy to put a strike against the ‘run it off’ attitude. However, it’s not easy to document when the ‘run it off’ attitude is beneficial to health.

    How your attitudes affect your health is well known. However, there are no specific boundaries between “just run it off”, and the attitude of “I refuse to give into my illness/injury”.

  20. Juluho March 26, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

    I’m guessing this is written for humor. I get the message, but a few of those things are not free range- it’s not helicopter parenting to surpervise children swimming in the pool. Both my kids are on the swim team and I wouldn’t let them swim alone. That’s insane to me. The truck things too, I know we all did it as kids but it’s crazy dangerous. Seat belts and airbags aren’t helicopter parenting

  21. jennifer March 26, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

    @Gina – people don’t so much overuse allergy, but use it as a catch-all to include sensitivity and intolerance because folks take it more seriously. So while it may be true that my brother doesn’t actually have a milk “allergy” the 48 hours he has to spend glued to the bathroom after ingesting dairy means that he wants to be darn sure that no one gives it to him. By the same token both celiac and non-celiac gluten reactions are technically an intolerance, but that doesn’t lesson the physical and emotional challenges that can happen when they are digested. I have no idea how my corn “problem” would be characterized/diagnosed, but all I can tell you is that it sends my anxiety into a tailspin and causes suicidal ideations leaving me incapable of normal function for at least a day and near hospitalization (commitment) several times, so you better believe that I tell folks I have a life threatening corn allergy.

  22. Flossy73 March 26, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

    Wait…..are we still talking about a comic strip? Those things in the “funny papers,” as my dad used to call them? I’m just checking because many people here seem to be talking about possible future obituaries. That’s heavy stuff y’all …..relaaaaax

  23. Emily March 26, 2017 at 8:53 pm #

    >>–Unsupervised swimming (depending on age) and riding in the back of a pick-up are ACTUALLY dangerous. Two causes of young children dying in Arizona that are FREQUENT.<<

    No. Unsupervised swimming can be dangerous depending on SWIMMING ABILITY. I was a strong enough swimmer to swim alone beginning around the age of probably twelve or so. My dad and my brother aren't strong enough swimmers to swim alone even now, as adults, although my mom and I can both swim well. My parents stopped insisting that I only swim under adult supervision when I was fourteen years old, and I rescued my three-years-younger brother from drowning in the middle of the lake at the cottage, when he was having chest pains.

  24. Nicole March 26, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

    Hilarious! Yes, and let’s really go wild and have screen time that’s non-educational.

  25. Dienne March 27, 2017 at 7:34 am #

    “I am not trying to start a mommy war here, but there is evidence that a excessively high cesarean rate (often promoted by fear tactics), immediately washing newborns, and bottle feeding may contribute to the population’s rise of certain health issues.”

    Except that bottle feeding has been going down while allergies/sensitivities are going up. For a fairly long period in about the 40s through the 70s or 80s, breastfeeding was very rare in this country – women actually had to fight to be allowed to do it. Now it’s the reverse – just try telling your doctor that you’re not even going to try to breastfeed these days. Heck, even after trying it I was given hell when I gave it up because it still just wasn’t working well after two months. Best decision I ever made, incidentally, and FWIW, neither of my kids have allergies/sensitivities.

    Also incidentally, both my kids were born via c-section.

  26. Workshop March 27, 2017 at 7:58 am #

    It’s a comic, people.

    It is not a bible for how to raise your children. It’s words and pictures combined to make a point in a funny way. Heck, I think I’m going to go drop my kids off at a library and let them play unsupervised today. “Don’t set anything on fire!” Always a good thing to say around snowflake parents.

    Keep up the great work, Lenore.

  27. delurking March 27, 2017 at 8:17 am #

    Right now, I scale vertical rock walls with only some small chunks of metal inexpertly placed and a rope protecting me from a fall. Right now, I leave the beach and get dragged across the surface of the ocean, all alone, by a giant kite. Right now, on two wheels I descend rocky, rooty, skinny trails down mountainsides, miles from help, all alone.
    When I was a kid, I went to the beach, both alone and with only my little brother for company. When I was a kid, I rode in the back of a pickup truck on occasion. When I was a kid, I scrambled up mountains.

    Sure, things I did as a kid were more dangerous than some people would let their kids do, but so are the things I do as an adult. They bring me joy, and are worth the risk to me. I’ve only got what, ~80 years to live? Why waste the childhood years? Why deprive my children of that joy (actually, only one of them is interested, but that is irrelevant) for ten years?

  28. BL March 27, 2017 at 8:30 am #

    “Wait…..are we still talking about a comic strip? Those things in the “funny papers,” as my dad used to call them? I’m just checking because many people here seem to be talking about possible future obituaries. That’s heavy stuff y’all …..relaaaaax”

    Good advice, but …

    Convincing people not to get upset about comics is harder than convincing them their kids aren’t going to die if they talk to a stranger. Becoming overwrought about comics was the 20th century’s primary form of helicoptering.

    It was more about comic books than comic strips, but the idea was the same:

  29. Michael_oz March 27, 2017 at 9:49 am #

    This is off topic, but needs to be said.

    For those using a phone to view this blog, tapping on the picture will open it up in its own post. Tap again to open up the picture itself. It can now be zoomed into if desired.

    This method works on all posted pictures.

    For the record, I almost exclusively read this blog on my phone.

  30. Juluho March 27, 2017 at 10:00 am #

    Emily, I disagree. I don’t believe undersupervised swimming is a good idea regardless of ability. When my mom was a lifeguard the people should most frequently rescued were adults that hit their heads diving, or on the side of the pool.

  31. Jess March 27, 2017 at 10:08 am #

    With the food allergies, I’ve read a few studies that indicate overuse of antibiotics at or near the time of birth is a main contributor. I have three kids, the oldest with egg and milk allergies, and he was the only one where I received antibiotics at birth (I got them prophylactically because my GBS test had not come back and then it turned out I was negative for it anyway). On the upside, in one study a doctor/scientist was able to induce peanut allergies in mice by giving them abx at or shortly after birth, but then was able to reverse them by introducing a specific gut bacteria. Not sure if it’s been replicated, but it’s certainly an indicator of what could be causing the uptick in allergies.

  32. Megs March 27, 2017 at 11:57 am #

    FWIW, I gave birth naturally (without meds or a C-section) to four kids. I practiced extended breastfeeding. I didn’t sanitize anything except a good bleaching after we all had the flu or another nasty virus. I never used hand sanitizers or even had antibiotic soaps in the house (just homemade soaps). I rarely used soap in their baths, period, only when they were actively dirty. Lots of time playing outdoors, exposure to pets, healthy lifestyle, all that. 3/4 of them have food allergies, two of them rather mild, but one of them moderate/severe. Anecdotes and all that, but yeah.

  33. Gina March 27, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    Jennifer–Agree. I wasn’t referring to people who have real sensitivities. (WOW, that corn thing is crazy!)…I have taught preschools for years, and believe me, there are parents who say “allergy” when they mean “pay more attention to MY child”.

    Emily–Absolutely disagree. Even a champion swimmer can get a cramp, have a stroke/heart attack, hit their head, suddenly feel dizzy/nauseated. Swimming alone is never a good idea.

  34. John B. March 27, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    @Paul Adasiak

    So if a kid flies across the country by himself and he gets lost in the airport or a pervert sitting next to him touches his thigh, do we now forbid all kids under 16 from traveling without an adult chaperone on a jet? Just because a kid happens to drown in a pool do we now prosecute parents whose 11-year-old kid swam in the neighborhood pool without an adult watching him even though he’s an excellent swimmer? If a kid is caught eating something he dropped on the ground do we rush him to the doctor for a tetanus shot or does CPS charge the parents with neglect? If a kid falls down and hurts himself and if a parent tells him to “walk it off” do we now consider his parents “abusive” or because it’s a child who fell down and got hurt should we call 911 to be on the safe side?? It’s ok for adults to ride around in the back of a pickup truck but not for a 12-year-old kid? If an adult flies out at 70 miles per hour he’d be just as dead as a child would. I would hope that it’s illegal for adults too.

    The point is, there’s too much over reaction nowadays over kid safety.

  35. TraceyMartel March 27, 2017 at 2:04 pm #

    I encourage my kids to speak to strangers and tell them that they don’t have to be in constant fear of being kidnapped. But this comic still bothered me a bit because I hate when food allergies are the butt of a joke. We don’t make cancer jokes or down syndrome jokes. So why is making food allergy jokes okay?

  36. Workshop March 27, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    Tracey, it’s “okay” to make jokes about food allergies because thanks to the over-the-top rhetoric food allergy fanatics have taken, many people mock them. (I think fanatics is an accurate word. My son has a food allergy, so I know they’re real. I don’t care if people consume that food in front of him – the people I am talking about are hysterical that OMG HE MIGHT GET A MOLECULE OF ALLERGEN ON HIM AND DIE.)

    Thanks to that overreaction, and an inability to see humor instead of insult, it makes it so much easier to make fun of them.

    Don’t blame the messenger. I just use the rules of humor, I didn’t create them.

    “Let’s go crazy and eat trans fats” is particularly humorous, because the moment you heat trans-fat free oil, you’ve created trans fats. Chemistry FTW!

  37. Dienne March 27, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    Yep, Workshop, I’ve always found anaphylactic reactions to peanuts to be hilarious. People really do get worked up over the silliest things. I mean, just because it’s potentially fatal, pffft.

  38. Molly March 27, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    In my opinion, the reason allergies are lumped into the helicopter parenting trend are twofold- First, if the kid has a legitimate allergy, the helicopter parent, just as with everything else in their kid’s life that might be dangerous, over-manages and demands that everyone around them make accommodations and alterations to suit their snowflake.

    My best friend growing up had a little brother who was allergic to everything under the sun – eggs, peanuts, milk, you name it. We all knew about it. He wasn’t segregated at a separate “allergen free” table in the cafeteria, his mom didn’t insist that his entire class eat allergen-free snacks and she didn’t call us every time he came over to play to remind us of his allergies. Once he was old enough to go to school and leave the house without her, he was taught what he needed to avoid and why, he wore a medical bracelet listing all these things, and he carried an Epipen everywhere. He learned to navigate the world and his big sister and peers helped him look out for potential dangers and shut up the bullies. I’m sure he thought it sucked that he couldn’t have the same things as the other kids, but he’s hardly turned out the worse for it and probably learned a lot about taking care of himself and good decision making.

    What’s going to happen to the snowflake that never learns enough about or is kept completely in the dark about their own condition (to prevent them worrying about it, of course)? They’re going to assume their parents have arranged for all around them to only offer things they can eat or won’t know any better, and therefore might end up eating something that kills them. One of the coolest moms I knew growing up served a cookie to a kid that killed him because she didn’t know the kid was allergic to whatever ingredient, none of the other kids knew, the kid either didn’t say anything or didn’t know, and the parents failed to notify her or assumed she already knew.

    The second reason is that some helicopter parents love to make their snowflake special and either lie or exaggerate. “I want my kid to only eat healthy food I provide” turns into “my kid is allergic to everything else.” Or they had a tummy ache that one time they had a milkshake at a friend’s party, so best to assume it’s a deathly allergy and avoid milk from now on. Or that green frosting made my kid super hyper that one time so it’s an allergy to green food dye, of course. This second type is more dangerous because it acts like the boy crying wolf and makes people immune to cries of “he’s allergic!!11!!” and they may be skeptical or less forgiving about others who have legitimate allergies.

  39. Workshop March 27, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

    Dienne, that’s exactly the attitude that will bring out the mocking.

    See, lots of things are potentially fatal.

    Swimming in the ocean is potentially fatal (if you live in Australia, I don’t know why you’d even set foot on a beach, much less get into the ocean).

    Eating bread is potentially fatal.

    Driving in a car is potentially fatal.

    You know what’s 100% guaranteed fatal? Life. 100% of us are going to die. Being born is the leading cause of death.

    So getting your hackles up about something that, according to the CDC, lead to 13 deaths from 1996 to 2006 is begging to made fun of. Sure, it’s not particularly fun if you’re one of those families who was affected by a death. But the amount of energy you spend berating people for something that, statistically, won’t likely happen paints a bright target on you.

    Parents who fret about all the things that could possibly harm their children, as depicted in the comic, are fretting about things that, statistically speaking, aren’t going to happen. But their response to the world at large is so out of proportion to the reality, it becomes humorous. Especially when they don’t recognize humor and instead become indignantly self-righteous.

    Take, for example, George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” There are people who claimed to be offended, who became indignantly self-righteous. He was arrested for the routine. But those people who were so offended were mocked, because they blew something a bit disturbing out of proportion with the actual act.

    I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind about this, because we humans have this weird habit of grasping onto our beliefs with absurd dedication even when faced with evidence that’s contrary to our belief. But know that when your response is not just out of proportion, but so egregiously beyond the proper response, you will be mocked and satirized.

    By the way, the trip to the library went great. My kids only got talked to once by a librarian, who directed them to a boardgame (Battleship – my four year old didn’t quite grasp the concept). And I didn’t say a word as their behavior was corrected by someone else.

  40. Thomas Bregman March 31, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

    Yes! Yes!! Yes!! And yes!!!!

    I would ask those parents not aligned with lower intervention parenting why they would be so defensive and protective of their own style?

    I completely support (and have practiced) the approach Lenore and others so eloquently advocate.

    There seems little doubt (and abundant evidence) that the general parenting paradigm, especially for middle-class and affluent families, has radically changed over the past 30+ years. At the risk of generalizing, it’s clear that “helicopter parenting” and related behaviors have noticeably altered child development and the construction of their character and personhood on their way towards becoming adults.

    I love the way Mr. Patsis captures that in 9 short cartoon panels.

  41. Lea April 1, 2017 at 11:25 am #

    For cripes’ sake, what’s with all of the Buzz Killingtons in this comment section?

    Yes, Pastis is citing some things that are obviously dangerous–that’s PART OF THE JOKE. And it’s exactly the kind of edgy/dark humor Pearls Before Swine is known for.

    All hail Pearls Before Swine and Steven Pastis!