D. None of the above

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

There’s just far too much going on personally and professionally to contain it within a singularly focused column. Strap yourselves in, because here we go.

For starters, how awesome is the start of the school year? Kids grumble, shuffle their feet, roll their eyes and sigh. But, come on. It’s a clean slate. It’s a chance to learn new material, make new friends and start anew with teachers who didn’t wonder what was wrong with you when your eyes were almost closed during the days before you got sick. It’s also a chance for parents to breathe a sigh of relief as the chaotic house, which was filled with friends coming and going throughout the summer, establishes a predictable routine.

I spoke with a high school senior recently who was absolutely thrilled with the start of her final year of school. Not only does she want to get her grade point average up, which she was doing with a high average in her weakest subject, but she was also incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to apply to her favorite college. Her energy and enthusiasm were
infectious.

Keep up: Here comes another topic. The other day, after I dropped my son off at school, I passed a father who put me and so many other parents to shame. He was pushing a fully loaded double stroller with two children who were between 2 and 4 years old. Anyone who has had to push a double stroller with bigger children knows how heavy that bus on wheels can get. He also sported a younger child in a BabyBjörn carrier. That’s not where it ended. While he was pushing and carrying three children, he was walking an enormous dog. Given the size of the dog, I wondered if he was tempted to strap a saddle on the animal and put one of the kids on top of him. Yes, I know that wouldn’t actually work, but it would distribute all that child weight more evenly and would give “man’s best friend” a job to do, other than getting rid of waste products on other people’s lawns.

Speaking of dogs, yes, my family now has a dog. He’s wonderful, soft and fluffy and is also an enormous pain in the buttocks. He has two modes of walking: He either pulls me really hard — he weighs more than 80 pounds — or he completely stops, pushing his snout into grass that he tries to eat and which upsets his stomach. Look, doggie dog, I know I can’t eat dairy because of the enormous negative consequences. Does it occur to you that eating grass, dirt, plastic foam cups and pencils is bad for your digestion? Of course not because the only cause and effect you care about relates to what goes in your mouth.

So, last weekend we went to a baseball tournament for our son. The day after the tournament, the coach sent a pointed note to the parents, reminding us to contact him if we had a problem or question, rather than going straight to management. In case you were wondering, I don’t miss coaching.

Then there’s National Security Advisor John Bolton. So, he gets fired for being a hawk? Who knew he was a hawk? Oh, wait, just about the whole world. So, that begs the question: If his hawkish views weren’t welcome or wanted, why was he hired in the first place?

One more question: When did the weather or hurricane warnings become political?

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know that summer camp game where two or more teams line up with a spoon? The objective is to carry a tablespoon of water across a small lawn to the other side, dump whatever you can keep on the spoon into the cup on the other side, and race back with the spoon so that the next person can bring as much water as quickly as possible to your cup.

For me, parenting is about battling the urge to sprint at top speed, hoping that there’s at least some water to dump into the cup on the other side.

I had one of those moments when I wanted to share all the right pieces of advice for our daughter as we drove her to college. Would she even hear the pearls of wisdom I was trying not to drop from the spoon?

My first thought was to tell her that, “You get out of it what you put into it.” Of course everyone who passes the requisite classes gets a degree. What differentiates one set of experiences from another is the amount of energy, effort and dedication from the student. I scratched that one off the list because she’d heard it too many times before. If that lesson were going to make it into the cup, it had plenty of time to do so.

Then, it occurred to me to tell her to study smarter and harder, in that order. I wanted her to put in genuine effort — see the previous piece of unspoken advice — but I also felt that she needed to focus her efforts on specific chapters or concepts. Exams don’t tend to demand total recall of every word on every page in a textbook. Try to figure out, perhaps with some help from upper-class people or your resident adviser, what are the most important ideas for each class.

I considered telling her to appreciate and learn from her mistakes. I had suggested that homily in her academic life, on an athletic field and in her social interactions. I couldn’t possibly say that on the ride to college because her response, at best, would be some version of, “Daaaaaaaddd!” No, clearly, telling her to learn from her mistakes would be a mistake.

Maybe, just as I contemplated another recommendation, the clear skies on the drive ahead were a sign that I was on the right track. I wanted to tell her to get to know her professors, regardless of the size of the class. In fact, the larger the class, the greater the need to walk up to her teachers, introduce herself and express an eagerness to learn about a subject this person had spent a professional career teaching.

Maybe I should also tell her not to fall behind. Catching up becomes a regular struggle when the professor has moved away from the lessons you’re trying to process and commit to memory.

By the time we arrived at school, I hadn’t shared any of those words of wisdom or fortune cookie advice, depending on your perspective, because our daughter slept during much of the car ride. Carrying boxes, bins and bags up the stairs became the primary focus, as did trying not to sweat too profusely over everything I was lugging into her room.

As she was scrambling to figure out how to attach pictures of her friends to a wall, it was clear the timing wasn’t ideal to offer advice. Maybe it’s best this way: She’s now reached an age and a stage in life when she’s got to figure out how to fill her own cup with water.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know Murphy’s law, right? Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Well, it seems that we need to update Murphy’s law. To that end, please find a few of my experiential and observational corollaries.

• Your kids know more about electronics than you do. Yes, I know there are information technology people who are keeping up with the latest apps, some of whom may actually write the apps. But most of those people stop using their phones or looking at their work when they go home. Your kids are using them all the time. They are professional app users, while you likely know one app extremely well.

• You will receive a message from your airline when it doesn’t help. I appreciate how airlines, and even Expedia, offer to send you updates on your flights. Most of the time, however, the text that the plane is delayed two hours will arrive just after the car that’s brought you to the airport pulls away from the curb.

• Following the rules at the doctor’s office, the DMV or anywhere else you might be a captive audience rarely works. I recently went to a doctor’s office half an hour early because the email requested that I arrive then for my first appointment. I waited more than an hour for a consultation that lasted a few minutes.

• You’re likely to leave out a critical word at a critical time in a critical email. Let’s say someone proposes an idea at work that you find wholly objectionable and unworkable. You respond: “I can agree with this idea.” Forgetting the word “not” then means that your boss, who proposed the idea in the first place, now gives you ownership of a process that is even worse than it seemed when you first read the email through your sleep-deprived eyes.

• The cute baby that made you smile in the airport or the bus station will be sitting behind you for hours. In the few moments when he’s not screaming, he’s kicking your chair right behind your head, rendering the noise cancellation headphones you bought utterly useless.

• In the world of TMI (too much information), you’re likely to hear something that makes you wish you had a plastic bubble. Someone near you on a subway will be talking to his friend on the phone about a strange rash that’s spreading everywhere while coughing violently into the air.

• The cable or appliance repair person who gave you a four-hour window when he might arrive at your house will come at the beginning of the window, the end of the window or in those three minutes you stepped out to get a cup of coffee just down the street. When you return to find the note indicating how sorry he was that he missed you, you have an adult tantrum which terrifies the neighbors and their kids, who will no longer come to your house during Halloween.

• Complaining about the performance of an athlete who never seems to live up to his or her potential means that athlete will do something incredible within moments of your most vocal complaint. That will be the case unless you’re complaining because you secretly believe that will lead to a winning effort. In that case, the athlete will meet your low expectations.

• The year you move to a place where you’re assured there are no hurricanes, you watch the familiar sight of wind tearing through your backyard, as a hurricane fells trees you have owned for all of two weeks. Ah, cypress tree, we hardly knew you.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Am I going to cry? That’s the question I get so often when I talk to other parents who, like me, are about to send their first child off to college.

I’m sure I’ll be more reflective than teary-eyed. I’ll probably think about expected and unanticipated milestones. Like a montage or a video, pictures and memories of my daughter at various ages will pass through my head.

I keep thinking about her fourth birthday. The night before her party, she could barely sleep. She came into our room several times to ask if it was time to get up yet. I told her to look out the window, past the streetlights of Manhattan, into the sky, where it was pitch dark. When it was lighter, she could get up and start preparing for the party.

As soon as we got to Jodi’s Gym, which was a wonderful padded room filled with age-appropriate apparatuses, my daughter raced around the room. The party planner asked us to wait in the entrance so we could greet her guests. While we were waiting, I chased her around the table, listening to the wonderful, happy screeches that came each time I either caught up to her or got close to her.

“You know,” the party planner said, “you might want to save some energy for the party.”

My daughter smiled at me, shook her head and ran away, expecting me to follow her. I continued to play the pre-party game, even as the party planner shrugged. After everyone arrived, my daughter led the way on every piece of equipment, delighted that she had the chance to run, jump and scream without waking Maryann and Frank, who lived beneath us in our apartment. Even though she can’t picture Maryann and Frank today, she knows that those were the names we used whenever she got too loud early in the morning or late at night.

I also think about how enchanted my daughter was by her first grade teacher. Mrs. Finkel delighted her students and their parents with her soft voice, her ability to focus on each student individually and the class as a whole at the same time, and her control of the classroom. While Mrs. Finkel died incredibly young after a short battle with cancer, I know her legacy lives on with the students who are preparing for college and with her husband and daughter.

I am also recalling the many moments when a book captivated my daughter’s attention, causing her to read late into the night; when she caught blue claw crabs at a dock; or when she played board games with her brother and cousins at my mother’s house during Thanksgiving.

Perhaps the most recurring memory, however, goes back to when she was learning to ride a bicycle. I pushed the bike for several seconds, let go, and watched her wobble unsteadily until she either fell or put her feet to the sides. Eventually, my back hurt so much that I couldn’t bend and run anymore.

“Let’s stop for now,” I gasped. “You don’t need to do it now. When you’re ready, you’ll do it.”

She paused and asked me to push her one more time. When I did, she slowly circled the parking lot and stopped, a triumphant smile plastered across her face. On the walk back home, I asked her how she was able to conquer the bike.

She told me she thought about how she wanted to be ready, so she did it.

While I probably won’t cry when I turn around and leave her at college, I will hope that she feels as ready as she did when she conquered her bike.

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

How do you compete with the Big Mac and plastic straw?

That’s the dilemma facing the Democratic Party. You see, beyond squaring off against the tweets and the sideshows, the Democrats are hoping to win the hearts and minds of voters against a billionaire president who endorses products and ideas that carry broad appeal for his base and for some voters on the fence.

People don’t want to be told how to live their lives. They don’t want a government to say, “Hey, red meat isn’t good for you. Stop eating it and focus on the foods that will keep you healthy and be good for the Earth.” They also don’t want to give up something, like a plastic straw, that has been a part of their lives forever.

Now, there are plenty of solid arguments for reducing red meat and for cutting back on plastic straws. Those straws, among many other forms of plastic, are killing marine life. Plastics are so prevalent in marine waters that whales are dying of starvation because they have more than 80 pounds of plastic in their stomachs.

But that’s not what some voters think or care about. That dead whale probably didn’t eat the plastic straw that the voter used. And, even if it did, the plastic straw is only one of many other plastics that the mammal ate. Besides, it was probably a plastic straw that someone in China threw into the ocean or that an illegal immigrant used and discarded. I recycle my plastics, so why shouldn’t I use them as often as I’d like?

The problem for Democrats is simpler than that, though. It’s really a question of the present versus the future. As we are currently constructed, we, the American people, aren’t accustomed to sacrifice. It’s not considered a modern virtue by a president who says what he thinks and does what he likes. We want what we want when we want it. We are the culture of instant gratification. Someone says something awful about us, we want to hit back.

It’s why some people adore the president. He is the ultimate counterpuncher, he says what he thinks and he always wants the last word. Misspelling that word is irrelevant and, in its own way, it appeals to some people because proper spelling seems so elitist.

It’s also why he can roll back environmental laws designed to protect endangered species. Sure, long term, we might lose a few snakes, birds or trees, but we will also be able to make more money from the land, create more jobs and live for the present.

The great, big, beautiful tax cut helped boost the stock market. Why? Companies used that extra money to buy back their stock. That didn’t do much to help the economy or create jobs. It didn’t enhance the companies’ revenues or encourage corporations to take risks to fund important research or pursue innovative ideas. It was a for-the-present gift to companies which boosted their current bottom lines.

Conspiracy theories fit into the mold of a present focus. Until irrefutable facts come to the public’s attention, these theories — including some about how or even whether disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein died — burn like a bonfire, without requiring a discussion or even a preparation for an unknown future.

Looking past the present to the future that will affect our children and grandchildren is difficult. Besides, instead of worrying about what the world will look like in 20, 30 or 50 years’ time, we can sit down with the younger generation, pull up a chair, and eat a Big Mac and drink a sugar-filled soda through a plastic straw. Democrats need to create a picture that makes whatever changes they seek understandable, worthwhile and palatable.

American Gun Laws

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I have an obvious question for the National Rifle Association: Why fight gun control?

Yeah, yeah, I get it. You and many others don’t want a repeal of the Second Amendment, which was written well before the creation of assault weapons that enabled deranged Americans to kill their fellow citizens
at an unfathomable rate.

But don’t gun manufacturers want gun control? After all, wouldn’t it be better to produce a product that stayed out of the wrong hands?

Let’s take a look at the difference between gun manufacturers and car manufacturers. On the one hand, you have companies producing vehicles where safety is a top priority. In addition to meeting the stringent requirements of the law, some car manufacturers add features like a way to block text or phone signals from getting into a car while someone is driving.

Wow, what a concept. The car manufacturers don’t make the phones. People have died doing all kinds of activities with their phones, taking selfies in dangerous locations and not paying attention to their environment in general because they are so focused on their phones.

And yet, some of these car manufacturers are protecting drivers from their own unsafe impulses that could harm them and others — sounds familiar? — by preventing the dangerous combination of phone use and driving. If we buy into the notion that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” shouldn’t gun manufacturers make an effort to find out which people are more likely to kill other people, and not sell these destructive weapons to them?

In 1996, three years before the Columbine, Colorado, shooting became one of the first in what has now become a painful and familiar collection of mass murders in locations ranging from schools to houses of worship to malls during back-to-school sales, Congress passed a budget that included the Dickey Amendment, named after U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Arkansas). That amendment prevented the government from funding research that might lead to the conclusion that gun control was necessary.

Say what? Yeah, but, in light of recent tragedies, a law was passed last year clarifying that the Centers for Disease Control can actually fund research about guns. And, yet, the CDC still can’t lead to any advocacy for gun control.

If guns make most people safer, why don’t gun manufacturers want to know which people, specifically, shouldn’t have a gun? The idea of background checks and red flags are all fine, but they may not be sufficient.

If a virus broke out anywhere in the country that threatened to kill a room full of people in minutes, we would want the CDC not only to understand how to treat those who might have that virus immediately, but also to provide warning signs to others about any symptoms that might lead to an outbreak of that virus.

The CDC is way behind in its research in part because that 1996 amendment effectively dampened any effort to conduct the kind of studies that would lead to a greater understanding of gun violence.

Sure, the Federal Bureau of Investigation could and should find people who might be a threat to society. With the help of the CDC, the FBI might have a better idea of where to look. 

The well-funded NRA, however, would do itself — and society — a huge favor if it put its considerable financial muscle behind an independent effort to understand how to recognize those people who shouldn’t have any kind of gun, let alone an assault rifle capable of mass murder in a minute. The NRA doesn’t even need to call it gun control, just firearms research.

We the people may have a right to own guns, but we also have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Wouldn’t gun control research, supported by the NRA, ensure that we could live our lives without fear of the wrong people owning the wrong guns?

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Before the summer ends, go to the beach and close your eyes. Most of us are visually dominant, so we go somewhere like West Meadow Beach and look at everything from the boats and ferries out on the Long Island Sound to the young children running back and forth in and out of the water to the light sparkling across the waves.

While all of those are spectacular sensory stimuli, they are only a part of experiences we might otherwise take for granted at a local beach. Our ears can and do pick up so many seasonal cues. We might hear a seagull calling from the top of a bathroom hut to birds flying along the shore. Apart from the music that emanates from phones and radios along the crowded beach, we can hear the wind rustling through umbrellas, the sound of a young couple laughing about the ridiculous thing their friend did the night before, or the splashes a skimming rock makes as it gets farther away from shore. On a day with limited visibility, we can listen to boats calling to each other with their deep horns.

Our skin is awash in cues. As clouds float overhead, we appreciate the incredible temperature difference between the sun and the shade. Combined with a sudden gust of wind, our skin feels unexpectedly cool as we wait for that same wind to escort the cloud away. We take off our shoes and allow our feet, which carry the rest of our bodies hither and yon, to appreciate other textures. We dig our toes into the warm sand and lift our heels, allowing the grains of sand to trickle back to join their granule brethren.

We walk to the edge of the water and feel as if we’ve left the office, the shop, the lawn or the screaming kids far away. The lower water temperature draws away the heat that’s built up inside of us. If the surf kicks up, we can slide into the soft sand, sinking up to our ankles in the moistness.

Our feet can appreciate the fixed ripples on a sandbar that are smooth, soft and uneven.

As we walk up the beach, we can test the ability of our soles to manage through rocks often smoothed over by years of wave and water. We bend our knees more than normal to cushion the impact of a hard or uneven rock.

Our noses anticipate the beach before we leave the house. We lather coconut-scented sunscreen on our bodies and across our faces. As we get closer to the beach, we may pick up the marshy whiff of low tide. When we pull into a hot parking lot, the sweet and familiar ocean spray fills our lungs.

Once we’re swimming, our taste buds recognize the enormous difference between the waters of the Sound and a chlorinated pool. When we leave the sea, we head to the warm blanket or towel to partake of foods we associate with the beach, like the sandwiches we picked up at the deli on the way over, the refreshing iced tea or the crispy potato chips.

We saunter over to the ice cream truck, looking at a menu we’ve known for years. While we scan the offerings, we lick our lips and imagine the taste of the selections, trying to get those small bumps on our tongues to help us with the decision. We know how fortunate we are when the most difficult decision we have to make resolves around choosing the right ice cream to cap off a day that reminds us of the pleasures of living on Long Island.

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Airports are funny places, if you don’t have to fly anywhere. In no particular order, I’d like to share some observations after myriad recent summer flights.

Cost of food and drinks: It’s not quite as high as the U.S. Open prices, but it’s pretty close. You can buy a water for the same price as you’d buy a case of 24 waters at a supermarket or a drugstore.

Jennifer Aniston still sells magazines: Every news store has numerous magazines near the instant sugar and the ways to improve bad breath. At least one, if not all, of these editorial products typically features Jennifer Aniston because, even at 50 years old, Rachel from “Friends” still helps sell magazines.

Perfect place for claustrophobes — yes, that’s a word — to feel claustrophobic: Despite the ongoing construction, LaGuardia still features incredibly close hallways that are reminiscent of former baseball stadiums, albeit without the smell of hot dogs or the sound of a crowd roaring to life after a home run.

Caste system in the air: We board by group number because that’s what the airlines, in their infinite wisdom and desire to divide us into the “haves” and “have nots” have decided is the best way to wring a few extra bucks out of its customers. So, naturally, those of us unwilling to shell out a few extra shekels — that’s the Israeli currency, but I put it in here because of the alliteration — have to board in group 9. What I especially love about this group, which is often the largest one, is that the airline workers rarely even say the number. After they board group 8, they’ll say, “OK, and everyone can board now.” Why even give us a number if we are “all the rest”? Just put “last” or “loser” or “cheap bastard” on our tickets and call it a day. Seriously, this group boarding system is reminiscent of the Hindu caste system, where the group 9 people are the equivalent of Harijans or “Untouchables.” Ooh, that was a good movie which had nothing to do with flying or with the caste system, although Nitti did take an unintended flight before he was waiting in the car.

Bags: Is it just me, or have the storage spaces on the airlines become smaller even as people lug two and three pieces of furniture, I mean baggage, onto the plane? Of course, the people in groups 1 and 2 could easily store a couch in the limited overhead space, while the group 9 crowd isn’t allowed to take a miniature backpack.

Pretzels or cookies: Really? That’s what the food has come down to on airplanes? No more, “chicken or fish” from the flight attendants. Nowadays, they seem magnanimous when they offer us a choice of carbohydrates. Sometimes, they even let us take one of each, but they wink as if we’re not supposed to tell anyone. Oops, did I just blow their secret?

Manipulative timing: Airlines finally seem to have mastered the art of under promising and over delivering. When flights leave on time, they arrive 30 minutes or more early. When they leave 30 minutes later than anticipated, they somehow arrive on time. It probably makes passengers happier to arrive earlier, but it makes the concept of “on time” less of an accomplishment. The airlines seem to have created their own timing curve.

Rating the flight: We’re barely on the ground before the airlines want to know how they did. Well, they arrived early (surprise, surprise); they gave the happy people in the higher groups of the plane the requisite pretzels; and they didn’t have time to serve drinks or pretzels to the underappreciated fliers from group 9.

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We spend our lives searching. We look for friends in elementary school with whom we can share a laugh or a meal. We seek the right clothing and supplies so that we fit in.

As we age, the searches change. We hunt for fulfilling jobs, long-term romantic or career partners, places to live, cars that will meet our needs, and homes in communities that will welcome us and our families.

Through all of these searches, people wander into and out of our lives. If we’re fortunate enough, we might know someone from the time we’re 3 years old with whom we continue to meet, laugh, and exchange work stories or ideas and challenges.

Sitting in cars waiting for our children to emerge from their orchestra rehearsals or milling about in the entrance to an auditorium after a concert, we may see the same familiar faces, smile at the people next to us, and appreciate how they have supported all of our children with equal energy and commitment, congratulating our son or daughter on their solos or appreciating the remarkable live performance they just witnessed.

As we age, we inevitably lose people. Some drift out of our lives when their interests diverge from ours, even though they remain in the same town. Others take jobs in a new state and follow a different schedule in a new time zone.

When our friends or family members die, the losses are permanent. Except in photos, videos and in our imaginations, we won’t see their faces, smell their perfume or hear their infectious and distinctive laugh echo around a room.

We often say to family members and close friends, “So sorry for your loss.”

While death is a loss, it’s also a reminder of what we found. The person who has left us may have attended the same school, lived on the same block or gone to the same conference many years ago. A blur of people enter and leave our lives, sometimes for as short as a few seconds because we give them change at a store or take their reservations when we’re working for a ferry company, or other times when we’re waiting with them at the DMV to get a new license in a new state. Other times, the people who will become an ongoing part of our lives find us, just as we found them.

Their death brings sadness and a hole in the fabric of our lives. Some cultures tear a hole in their garments to tell the world about the missing piece that comes with mourning.

These moments are also an opportunity to celebrate the fact that we forged a connection and that we played an important role in each other’s lives.

Connections begin when we reach out to strangers who become friends and to men and women who become life partners. Every day, we have the opportunity to appreciate what we’ve found in the people who populate our lives, the ones we choose to call to share the news about a promotion, those whose support and consideration remind us of who we are.

When we stray from a path that works, these found friends can bring us back to the version of ourselves we strive to be. Each loss reminds us not only of who that person was in general, but also of what we discovered through our interactions. These important people provide common ground and experiences and are as much a part of who we are as the image staring back at us in the mirror. We didn’t just find them. Ideally, we found the best of ourselves through the experiences we shared with them.

Daniel Dunaief

When I was younger, I was the best baseball player who ever lived. OK, maybe that’s a wee bit of an exaggeration. Maybe I was a decent player who had a few good games, surrounded by periods of agonizing ineffectiveness, miserable failure and frustrating inadequacies.

Baseball, as its numerous fans will suggest regularly, is a game of failure. And yet those exquisite moments of success — when we break up a no-hitter, get to a ball that seemed destined for open grass or develop the speed to outrun the laser throw from the outfield — make us feel as if we can do anything.

Recently, I have found myself frustrated beyond the normal measure of perspective because I feel as if I’ve lost a step or six when I play softball. My current athletic deficiencies seem to be a harsh reminder of the inexorable journey through time.

As I return from the game in the car, I sometimes bark questions at myself, wondering how I missed an easy pop-up, or how I lunged for yet another pitch I should have hit. My family, who comes to the games to support me, watches me dissolve into a puddle of self-loathing.

Yes, I know, it’s not my finest hours as a parent and I know I’m setting a terrible example. And yet something inside of me, which is both young and old, can’t control the frustration. I’m an older version of the kid who was so annoyed with his own deficiencies that he kicked a basketball over some trees. OK, maybe they were hedges and I probably threw the ball, but in my memory the offending orb traveled a great distance.

So, what was and sometimes is missing from my life that caused these games to be so important? Other than talent, conditioning, plenty of sleep and a commitment to practicing, my biggest problem was, and sometimes still is, a lack of perspective.

People suffer through much greater hardships than a decline in limited athletic skills. Life is filled with challenges and inspiration. People overcome insurmountable odds, push themselves far beyond any expectations by taking small steps for mankind or even small steps for themselves when they weren’t expected to walk at all.

As I know, I am fortunate in many ways to have the opportunity and time to play softball at all. To be sure, I recognize that perspective isn’t what people generally need when they care about something large or small: They need focus. Artists spending countless hours painting, writing, revising, editing or reshooting a scene for a movie to enable the reality of their art to catch up to their vision or imagination often lose themselves in their efforts, forgetting to eat, to call their parents or siblings, to sleep or to take care of other basic needs.

Considerable perspective could prevent them from finding another gear or producing their best work.

And yet perspective, particularly in a moment like a softball game, can soothe the escalated competitor and give the father driving a car with his supportive family a chance to appreciate the people around him and laugh about his inadequacies, rather than dwell on them.

In a movie, perspective often comes from a camera that climbs high into the sky or from someone looking through a window at his children playing in a yard or at a picture of his family in a rickety rowboat. Perhaps if we find ourselves tumbling down the staircase of anger, frustration or resentment, we can imagine handrails we can grab that allow us to appreciate what we have and that offer another way of reacting to life.