The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fintan Cawley, Child Hero

How young can a hero be? What is heroism? Where does it come from?

From watching my child, Fintan Nadym Cawley, 3, I would say that a toddler or a baby can be a hero. If the child is able to understand the idea of danger and is able to make a decision to face that danger in order to help another, at personal risk to themselves, then that child is a hero.

Fintan Nadym Cawley is a hero. He is only three years old, but he has the characteristics that make up a hero. I have often noted his courage in his daily play, in the situations he gets into, and the way he reacts to them. He is not afraid. He is not tearful. Indeed, in some situations in which other children would be crying, he is laughing, as if thrilled to be facing the challenge and enjoying doing so.

Today I will give one sweet example. His elder brother, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, had been walking down the road near his grandmother's house, when, suddenly, and without any forewarning, a dog leapt forward from a house with an open gate - and started barking aggressively at him. Ainan was startled and frightened, for the dog was large, the bark was loud and ferocious - and the gate was open. He ran away as fast as he could, bursting into tears at the shock as he did so. The dog did not make chase beyond the territory of his house grounds, however - though how was Ainan to know that he wouldn't? He thought he was about to be savaged by a dog let free.

Ainan Celeste Cawley's reaction is understandable. Any child faced with sudden personal danger and fright of that kind, from an animal larger than themselves, would cry. Fintan Nadym Cawley's reaction however, was of a very different kind.

"What happened Abang?" he asked concernedly. Abang means "older brother".

Ainan explained about the dog's sudden seeming attack.

Fintan was at once emboldened - and outraged. "Where? Where is it?", he demanded, his head turning and already looking around for something that he wanted. "I will kill it with my stroller!", he vowed, his stocky body filled with resolution and certainty of will.

"No Fintan!" we cried as one and moved forward to restrain him. For Fintan Nadym Cawley, three, would, undoubtedly, have taken his stroller and proceeded along the road to challenge the dog - and punish it for what it had done to his beloved Abang, Ainan Celeste Cawley.

We were touched, by this display of brotherly love - and bravery.

Where was Fintan's fear? Why was he unafraid to challenge a dog that was many times his weight and bulk, all teeth and bark? In Fintan the affront he felt that his beloved brother should be so upset, so endangered, denied the possibility of fear: it simply did not well up in him, as it would in others. All he was concerned about was the need to protect his brother - and right this wrong.

Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, is a scientific child prodigy - but his younger brother Fintan Nadym Cawley is a hero - and I don't think either is more special than the other. Both characteristics define them as special, in differing, but equally important ways. One is a gift of the mind, the other a gift of character. Depending on the demands of a situation one becomes more important than another, but, in absolute terms, neither is supreme: both are valuable qualities in a man, for one day, both will be men: one a genius, the other a hero. I am happy with that.

For more on Fintan Nadym Cawley, as a natural leader see:

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:45 AM 


Anonymous pam h said...

How eerily familiar.

When my son was 3 and my daughter 4, we had just arrived in a new town. There was a 'welcome' picnic at my husband's job. There were lots of families with lots of children, mostly older than our own.

About 30 minutes into the gathering, the children had divided into a game of 'boys vs girls.' My daughter was trying to keep up with the older girls as they ran from one area of the playground to another, being chased by the boys. The boys were weilding sticks and yelling and whooping as boys are wont to do.

At one point, they all (except my son) went into a fenced part of the playground (a ball field of some sort). As the girls then came running back out through the gateway, my son saw his chance. He slammed shut the gate and barred the way. He was valiantly trying to keep the much older (9? 10?) boys from harming the girls. He was eventually overcome by the sheer weight of the older boys pushing against the gate and was mightily upset that he had failed to protect the girls, but the image of that stalwart defender is imprinted forever in my mind.

He thought his sister and all the other girls were in danger and did not hesitate to come to their defense, even against boys twice his size.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Your son definitely sounds as if he is a little hero: it is a characteristic to be welcomed - but tempered, at appropriate moments, with a quite reminder of the real dangers of certain situations so that he doesn't leap into them without sufficient awareness of what might happen.

Every society, however, needs those who have a native bravery. It is an admirable character. I wish the young fellow well.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I know my daughters a Hero. Just today at the park she stood up for another child that had been pushed. As she went to this much older child and said "hey dont push my friend thats not nice he wouldnt do that to you" In a tone that is not her and without thinking that this kid could pummel her in a moment. After all she weighs a whopping 37pounds. You see my daughter is the quiet, more reserved child that would let someone push her but wont put up with it to a friend, stranger or foe. We are working on it but she says "Its ok mom it did not hurt" or "its only their opinion" she has never been a cryer where other children twice her age would. She is a child of deep passion for fairness and out to fix all the injustices of the world. Sweet characteristics that I love in her.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It sounds like your daughter is a courageous one, yes.

This tendency to heroism in children, as a character trait is, I would think, connected to a strong sense of morality: of what is right and what is wrong. I rather think that an heroic child is a principled one, a child who cannot stand to see something wrong being done and feels a strong urge to intervene.

I think such a child is likely to grow up to be an admirable individual since their core values will be good. At their base, they will have a respect for the rights of all humans. That must be good.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous said...

I left the above anonymous comment. At the time of the above incident she was only 4 now a just turned 5. She knows through her 5th grade reading ability about slavery and the total unfairness and greed etc of such happenings. So we are now deep in to learning how the world of different people with different values,morals etc. can work together in the world. This makes for interesting discussions so that I feel I am talking to a teen at times.

12:22 PM  

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