Summer is in full swing, the tourists are here and far from their home, but some things just don’t change. I was walking through the lobby of the Loews Hotel on Ocean Avenue, and passed a family from France, mother, father, daughter and teenage boy. They were standing in the hallway by the doors to the pool, and the boy, in his exuberance and excitement to get to the fun part, kicks off his flip-flops and heads towards the water. His father grabs him and says, (I’m assuming this because he was speaking in French) “Hey, you can’t leave your shoes in the hallway! Come take them with you.”

It was one of those moments that surpasses culture and language, and is just a typical part of the human condition. Teenagers are so impulsive and unthinking, and it doesn’t matter where they are from, or who their parents are, they just need a lot of attention and guidance.

My mother used to say that your kids are never grown up, and you’re never done being a parent. I don’t have the experience of being a parent to a human, so I can’t say for certain that she was correct, but from my observations, she was right.

Parenting is the one role that a person plays in their life that is truly a lifetime job. There are certainly people who choose to abandon their children, or who want to be friends with their kids, but for the most part, parenting is a major commitment, and one that clearly exceeds any other type of relationship or job.

Mothers and fathers have a huge responsibility to their children, and teaching them goes far beyond what most people think of as the minimums. Children learn far more by what their parents demonstrate, than by the words that they speak. It doesn’t take much to see what the true character of a person is, all you have to do is look to their children.

Yesterday I was walking my dog through Virginia Avenue Park, and on Sundays there are usually large family gatherings at the various picnic tables. And just like the French teen who thinks he can leave his flip-flops wherever he is, there are always lots of paper plates left around with half-eaten food from the children. As an exploration of how people raise their families, it is a very interesting window into family values. For example, there were two paper plates left that each had spaghetti and a huge handful of potato chips on them. They were probably put down by a couple of kids who found something more exciting to do.

My observation is not really about the littering that happened. Frankly, that is to be expected with young children and their inability to pick up after themselves. As a non-parent I think is a typical developmental issue. But what concerns me are the food choices. I don’t know which kids left these plates, but I see a great many overweight kids. Children are on the fast track to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and hypertension. And it bothers me.

Parenting is comprehensive, and I may be stepping over the line here, but if you have responsibility for another life, it goes beyond just making sure they are fed. I only have myself and a pampered pooch to take care of, but the principle is the same. I have to make sure he doesn’t overeat, and that he does exercise daily. I have to make sure that he is properly vaccinated and, this being Santa Monica, has the proper license, which brings me to the Santa Monica Pet Fair and Chip-A-thon that is happening this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Clover Park, which is located on Ocean Park Boulevard and 25th Street.

I was reminded of this event last week when the pampered pooch and I stopped in at his favorite snack shop, Got Pet Food on 14th Street. The owner, Brian Brahms, wanted to make sure that my pet was properly micro-chipped. It’s a safety measure so that in an emergency or a disaster, if my dog and I are separated, we can be re-united. This is a very important measure and every pet owner should be aware of the need for it. There will be free micro-chipping, low cost vaccinations, training demonstrations, pet registration and licensing (it is Santa Monica after all) adoptions and pet contests.

Whether you’re picking up after your teenager, or your dog, it seems like a never ending job, but we owe it to them, and ourselves, to do it as best we can.

David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or (310) 664-9969.

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