Dear Mother on the Sidelines of My Daughter’s Soccer Game,

Hi. You don’t know me. Yes, we’ve been introduced numerous times at end-of-season parties and other such team functions, but you never seem to remember me. I just wanted you to know that you inspire me, and I want to thank you.

I am in awe of your dedication, first of all. We all knew there was something unique and special about you that very first day of tryouts when you brought each member of the coaching staff a homemade pie with your daughter’s name delicately printed in frosting of understated pastels.

And your focus on game day simply enkindles admiration in all of us. Many mothers are distracted from the game by their cell phones, or by little brother who spit up in his shirt again, or by quiet conversation, but not you. No sir, not you. The guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier knows nothing of commitment compared to you. Every time your daughter makes any kind of bodily contact with the ball that compels it to travel more than seven feet in any kind of trajectory, there you are, cheering like an engineer at a successful lunar landing. “Hooray, Sarah! Great move!” Undaunted by the fact that Sarah, in a frantic attempt to get away from the ball before an opponent arrives, has unaccountably sent the ball two fields over with the side of her face, there you are, pumping your nurturing fist in the air, tears in your eyes, with the crazed look of a woman who is forced to suffer under the staggering weight of a gifted child.

I especially appreciate how your enthusiasm for the game is not lessened in the slightest degree by your complete lack of understanding of its rudiments. I think we will all hold as a warm and fond memory the time you called the ref an illegitimate son of a whore when he whistled your Sarah offsides. Sure, I suppose technically she was at least twenty-five feet behind the deepest defender, if you want to be picky about it. But what that sad ref evidently did not recognize is that this was the first time in recorded history that Sarah, the ball and the goal all appeared in simultaneous proximity, and he really should have overlooked the infraction. And I think the way Sarah was curled up in the fetal position with her face in her hands right on the eighteen-yard line spoke very poignantly about her support of your decision to actually enter the field of play to voice your concerns to the ref.

The red card that was presented so angrily to the coach after your thoughtful objections was entirely uncalled for. Of course you were justified in grabbing the ref’s arm — it was clear to all of us that he really wasn’t listening to you. But then, the rest of the girls on Sarah’s team apparently weren’t listening to you either, despite your vociferous and sincere evaluations of technique and work ethic, so your frustration was certainly understandable.

Anyway, thank you for teaching me to be a better parent, and if you need any letters of reference for all those universities you’ve already bought sweatshirts for, please let me know. I’d be happy to contribute.

Ron S. Clark