Taking my place next to the podium with uncharacteristic reluctance, I was met with youthful faces beaming in anticipation.
It's one thing sitting at the adjudicators' table with your back forming a safe barrier against the expectant eyes, but quite another holding the verdict in your hand, ready to deliver a blow that could be potentially crushing.
Let me explain my sudden lack of confidence. Any parent raising a teen amid the fourth industrial revolution, would tell you that the scoreboard is against you when it comes to saying anything remotely valuable in terms of sharing information, tips and your hard-won know-how.
But when it comes to things of the stage, like performing and making a speech, I think I know what I am talking about. In my heyday, my high school speech opponent was Dirk Hermann, today chief executive of the Solidarity trade union. We locked horns on a regular basis so competitively that neither of us won consecutively.
However, looking at the faces in front of me this week after adjudicating an annual speech contest, I was suddenly very aware of the fact that Dirk is now a famous chap with authority that people really take note of. As for me, the 15- to 16-year-olds staring back at me are probably thinking, what's up with the middle-aged tannie with the bolla, dressed a little like Mary Poppins meets Nanny McPhee?
One of the most sobering things about parenting, is being mirrored. Especially when it comes to hearing and seeing yourself – at first in miniature, then medium form and ultimately as a full blown force to be reckoned with.
"Why do you lay down the law for me, but don't abide by your own?" An unexpected reprimand catches me off-guard during a recent "sparring" session.
I wanted to defend myself with the statement, "Because I am the parent," but that would have been "argument suicide".
Instead, serious introspection caused a measure of panic regarding the ripple effect of my maternal imprint.
Steadying myself next to the podium as I readied myself to hand out my pearls of wisdom to the young, impassioned speakers, my thoughts inadvertently revisited news I read online before taking my seat at the adjudicators' table. News regarding the testimony of Marcel Steyn, youngest accused among the notorious Krugersdorp Killers, also dubbed Electus Per Deus - a group that viewed themselves as "chosen by God" - which allegedly killed 11 people between 2012 and 2016.
Steyn, now 21, made shocking revelations during her testimony this week. She was 14 when the first murders started, close to the age of the teens seated in front of me. Marcel, a top academic performer, was present when her mother, Marinda, hit Mikeila Valentine on the head with a hammer and then proceeded killing her in a stabbing frenzy.
"My mother said if I don't take part they will get rid of me like Mikeila," Marcel told the South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday.
The ripple effect of an imprint can echo in eternity.
l Note to self: stay mindful of showing and telling.