Yesterday, I took a bus ride to town, with my son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy. For the first part of the journey, he talked science - a non-stop stream of scientific ideas, observations and possibilities. He is only seven years and three weeks old and of quite a slight build. I, however, could never be accused of a slight build and so, beside me, he looked rather diminutive. As he talked, I would nod at appropriate moments to show that I listened - and he would just patter on. I noted that the Chinese young man opposite and his girlfriend, had soon lost interest in each other and had begun to listen to my son. They commented to each other in their own tongue, and though I couldn't understand Mandarin, their gaze told me their subject: Ainan.
Ainan then asked me for a piece of paper and a pen. Thinking he might need one, I had prepared myself by bringing some. He took the pen and paper, offered, and turned away from the couple opposite and set the paper against the seat back and began to write.
If I was easily embarrassed, I might have been prone to cringe at that point for the title of his page, in large letters was: "Poisons that I know." In this terrorist afflicted age, what would my fellow passengers think of me, as a father, him as a son?
Ainan then proceeded to write a long list of poisonous substances. What was interesting about this is that he wrote them in alphabetical order from beginning to end: so he sorted them first in his mind, before beginning to write.
I looked up from Ainan's work and saw every eye within range was staring at Ainan and his writing. The young man opposite wore glasses and, with the resultant visual sharpness, was clearly able to read what Ainan was writing. He stared incessantly. So, too, did about half a dozen others. Ainan, oblivious to this, wrote on: chemical name, after chemical name - names that even I had not heard of, in some instances.
What was interesting about the onlookers is that none of them stared at me. I am living in Singapore where the Caucasian is a rare breed. Very few Caucasians ever use buses. One would expect them, therefore, to be interested in me, in my presence in their Chinese/Malay/Indian midst - but no, it was my son who drew their eyes. He did not speak loudly, did not shout his presence to the bus. He simply sat, reversed, in his seat and wrote chemical names on a piece of paper. No-one spoke. Everyone stared. It was as if, beside me, there sat a film star, so intent were they on Ainan.
The combination of Ainan's scientific conversation, followed by his chemical inscriptions had silenced everyone nearby and given them a unified focus of attention: him.
I have become so used to Ainan's ways that I no longer consider them unusual. To be confronted by such a public reaction of amazement, therefore, was something of a surprise - for it made it most clear to me how others perceive such scientific abilities in one so young. They were all, without exception, absolutely stunned.
He pulled the same trick on the bus back - so it wasn't the particular individuals on the first bus who were unique in their reaction - for all the people who sat near him, both ways, had the same reaction.
(If you would like to read more about Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and three weeks old, a scientific child prodigy, then please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html
I also write about his gifted brothers, child prodigy, child genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)
Labels: Ainan, Caucasian, child prodigy, reactions to giftedness