Tonight’s the night for creepies and goblins! For being spooked! For braving the night to reap candy rewards. Hooray for Halloween! I love this season, and so does my family. And what better way to prepare for the Night of Fright than spending a whole weekend facing one’s biggest fears? That’s what my daughter Eva did this weekend, and I’m here to tell the tale (mua ha ha ha)…..
As you may recall, Eva took her “Eva’s Wild and Wonderful Books” project to the Bright Ideas Showcase and Contest this weekend. A state-wide entrepreneurial contest for kids, Bright Ideas hosts an exhibition floor for kids to display their ideas, and then invites them into a closed-door room to stand in front of a panel of four judges and give a 5-minute presentation about their project. My son Ian participated in this contest last year, but that boy’s a stage-guru and had no problem dealing with the pressures of a public presentation. Not so for Eva.
Now, Eva has proven herself 100-fold in her abilities to talk with folks one-on-one. In the last few months she has blossomed, gaining confidence in talking to strangers about her books and writing lectures. But an official presentation in front of judges is different, and on Friday night, the evening before the contest, Eva felt this difference and panicked. I mean, really panicked. The idea of going into a room and standing in front of four judges and just talking for five whole minutes absolutely terrified her. She started crying and begged not to attend the contest. She was petrified. It was heartbreaking.
Every parent has faced this kind of challenge at one time or another, and we all have to make the decisions that seem the best at the time. For me, I quickly decided there was no event in the world that was worth this kind of stress and anxiety. I affirmed for her that the contest was optional, and it was up to her if she wanted to attend or not. I assured her that we would be proud of her either way. After all, she’s only 8; I’m not too concerned about whether she can do this kind of public speaking gig at this point.
Putting the control back into her hands calmed her considerably. By the time she went to bed, she said she would attend the exhibition hall portion, but that she was still undecided as to whether she would present to the judges. I told her that was fine. And when I woke her up the next morning, she rolled over, opened her eyes, and said, “I’ve decided to present to the judges.” I told her she could still back out if she wanted, even right up to time she was supposed to go in. But that seemed to make her more determined.
She was the second participant to go into the judging room. I went in with her and sat by the judges. She froze up at first, looked at me with tears in her eyes, and said “Mom, I’m scared.” I told her (in front of the judges), that it was fine to be scared. That was ok. And then she dove in. She took a deep breath and gave her presentation. She had notes to refer to, but she did not read her speech; she talked to the judges. She kept her head up and projected. And this blows me away: she looked each judge in the eyes as she spoke. She was brilliant. We even had some technical difficulties (she showed the first of her writing lectures via laptop), but she didn’t let it phase her. I was amazed.
Later, she was challenged again, as all the participants were asked to walk across the stage and receive a participation medal. I know this isn’t a big deal for a lot of kids, but it is for Eva. She got very nervous again and said she didn’t want to walk across the stage. As far as I was concerned, she’d already slayed her dragon, so I told her she didn’t have to. Because of her anxiety, the staff decided to do a practice walk across the stage for all the kids (which, as it turned out, eased the fears of more kids than Eva). Eva agreed to do the practice walk, but asked me to go with her. I did. And as we reached the other side of the stage, she looked up at me with a huge smile and told me she could do it by herself now.
And she did, first for the participation medal, and later to receive her 1st place prize for New Business Idea in her age category. I couldn’t have been prouder – not for the award, but for her courage and determination. She grew up so much that day.
After all the fun of the day, we discovered that her website was getting a crazy number of hits. Upon further investigation, we found that her interview she gave to National Novel Writing Month a couple of months ago was finally posted on their blog site. People started posting comments from Brazil, Wales, Korea, and all over the United States. Her videos are now officially inspiring people all over the world. She had more than 400 hits on her website on Saturday, over 600 on Sunday, and as of 11:30 am today, she’s had 190. These “hits” represent people who are going to her website and watching her writing lecture videos – people being inspired by her determination to create their own literary masterpieces.
Her bravery is paying off in so many ways, helping make the world a better place, and inspiring people to try new things, even when they’re scared. I feel like my Halloween is complete. Now bring on the candy.
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