Caleb plays soccer. He loves soccer, if not with the fire of a thousand white-hot suns, then with the flames of at least one or two firebolts.

He’s not a bad soccer player, for an eight year old. We’re not calling up Arsenal and saying they should come scout this little kid, but, you know, he always runs towards the right goal; he doesn’t stop to pick flowers or fiddle with his shoes; and he’s pretty cheerful about taking directions from his coach.  Even Liam concedes–grudgingly–that Caleb is “pretty good, for a little kid.” (Yes, implied in this phrase is “not as good as I was at eight.”) Caleb can dribble and pass, take reasonably competent shots on goal, and talks big talk about Maradona-ing this, and nutmegging that.  Whether he can actually do whatever those things are, I have no idea, but he thinks he can.

So. Do you know where this story is going yet? Yep. Tryouts for the school soccer team, last week, in the 110F steamy-wet heat of a late afternoon. An hour of scrimmage on a field with no shade, with all the other little Messi wannabes.

The results of the team were posted last night, an A team and a B team.

Caleb’s name was not on the list. His friend X, who hates soccer? On the list. His friend Y, who Caleb regularly runs circles around on the field? On the list. His friends ABD and Z…? All, on the list.

Not the A team, not the B team. Twenty-five kids on the list, of about thirty who tried out.

Husband and I feel awful, and even Liam, the harshest critic of all, sputtered with indignation.  And Caleb? He moped, maybe cried a little, and then later on in the evening said that he is a New Yorker and he lives in New York and Abu Dhabi sucks. Which I think we have to translate as “all my friends made the soccer team and I didn’t and it’s not fair.”

It’s hard for any of us to believe that Caleb was the twenty-sixth worst kid who tried out, or the thirtieth. Or that one sweaty hour will be the only opportunity the kids have to make the team.

And so the inner dialogue began:

The inner Great Santini says, “Yep, that’s it, you had your shot kid, and for whatever reason, you whuffed it. Bummer. Live and learn, try harder next time, and suck it up.”


The helicopter mommy says “Oh poor baby, that’s awful, I can’t believe that my child wasn’t chosen, I’m going to call the coach and see what happened because my kid is sad and maybe this is all a misunderstanding.”

As a professor and administrator, I’ve been on the receiving end of these helicopter calls, and it’s never pretty, because usually the answers I have to give are not what parents want to hear.  I didn’t want to put the coach in the position of having to say, bluntly, “lady your kid isn’t any good and maybe he should think about bowling.”

So I got Husband to do it.

Well, truth be told, Husband (bless him) came to this conclusion on his own. He wrote a very diplomatic little email, asking if perhaps there’d been an oversight because Caleb seems like a pretty competent player, but if in fact Caleb had not made the team, perhaps the coach could offer some suggestions for what Caleb might work on for next year.  Really, there are times when having a husband who is a literature professor really pays off. He’s good with words, that guy.

Then we waited. No response, no response, no response.


Thank you for bring this matter to my attention.
 Caleb was indeed on the original squad list but an administrative error has led to him being missed off the final squad list when it was typed up.
 Please accept my sincere apologies, I was hoping something like this wouldn’t happen as I know it can be very disappointing for the children when they do not see their name on the sheet. Please let Caleb know that he is in the squad. I will also find time to speak to him today.
 Sorry for any inconvenience that this has caused.

Helicopter mommy just punched inner Santini in the face and then did a little victory dance in the endzone.

Sometimes it pays to hover.