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Today I am a proud mama. And my boy has guts.

I’m sure most people have heard that public speaking is one of the greatest fears people have. It takes confidence, poise…and guts to stand up in front of a group for any reason. Today I had the opportunity to watch Ethan speak in front of his school assembly of several hundred students. And he ROCKED it.

A few weeks ago, Ethan came to me heavily conflicted about a speech he had to give to his grade four class. Now, I speak regularly to groups both large and small. And one thing I have learned is that one of the secrets to a great talk is to talk about something you are passionate about. And let me tell you, Ethan LOVES greek mythology. In fact, on the night he thought up the topic, he followed me around the house for an hour spouting story after story, so excited that I wondered if he’d ever wind down to sleep.

Our first hurdle came the next day when he dejectedly reported that his classmates had offered their opinions that it wouldn’t be a good topic. (And in true Ethan-style, EVERYONE shot down the idea… which I sincerely doubt was entirely true)

As I donned my “coach” hat, our conversation revolved around the importance of following his heart, and not being swayed by his friends. (And, as I pointed out, none of them had heard how he tells those stories.) After a few days of hemming and hawing, he finally decided to go with his gut on this one, regardless of what anyone else said. (Yes! I thought. One for the confidence quotient.)

As we worked on his outline, adding his favourite characters, stories and monsters, his excitement grew. By the weekend, as he rehearsed for his last time with cue cards, he was almost beside himself, fervently hoping that he would be the one picked out of his class to share his speech with the whole school.

And I have to admit, I was hoping just as much, possibly even more than he was. See, one of my great passions is public speaking. And I think a part of my love of this started when I was Ethan’s age and had the role of Dorothy in our school play. I have no recollection of being scared to perform and sing in front of hundreds of people, and to this day, the memory is one of great accomplishment.

Knowing this, and being a mom witnessing how quickly my children are growing up, one of my strongest wishes is for them to have high self esteem, and the ability to face a challenge and experience the exhilaration that comes from overcoming it.

In my own head, I think I made a big deal out of this speech as well – although I did not voice that to Ethan. I simply saw the potential growth an experience like this could give to him. But rather than add to his pressure, nor interfere by emailing his teacher (which I considered, but then vetoed) – I zipped my lip. My advice to Ethan was what I always tell him: Give it your best. We will be proud of you no matter what.

However, when I got the email from Ethan’s teacher yesterday that he had been chosen to speak to the school assembly- I literally danced for joy.

And so last night and this morning, I again donned my “coach hat” many times as he waivered between excitement and anxiety. “I’m so scared!” he’d lament. “There will be 600 kids there!” he’d cry (another Ethan-exaggeration, I might add)

So I brought him back to past experiences when he’d overcome obstacles. Like overcoming his fear of deep water, jumping off high ledges to the water below (rope swings, bridges, and rock ledges) – and most importantly – the feeling of exhilaration he had once on the other side of those experiences. He listened intently, seeming to take it all in.

When it was his turn to give his speech, I literally watched him talk himself into confidence. And with a deep breath, he calmly looked out over the gathered students, and rocked his speech.

It was not about whether it was perfect (though to me, it was) It was not about whether or not he “won” by the judges (in fact, we don’t yet know, and I don’t care at all) It was all about watching our son, our pride and joy, take yet another confident step in the world. Being proud of who he is, his ability to hold his own, and to face his fears and keep going despite them all.

As a mom, every little moment like this is like a breath of fresh air. I can breathe a little easier, with yet another experience where I have witnessed the courage and strength that lies in our not-so-little-boy.

I know that life will offer up lots of its bumps along the way. But today, I was witness to one of those memories that for him, may just be one to call upon when he needs a reminder of how very powerful he is.

Oh yeah, I am one proud mama.