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 +

Monday, January 01, 2007

Fireworks at Marina, Singapore

It is a tradition in Singapore for people to gather at Marina to see in the New Year, to the deafening sound of a grand fireworks display. The numbers who gather is staggering. It was standing room only for miles around the centre of the display - how many people that might be, I have no idea, but would be unsurprised if it were measured in hundreds of thousands or more.

Amidst this crowd, my wife and I laboured to keep our family together and not get lost in the crowd. We must have made a comical site: I had a child in each hand, dragging them along through the throng - and Syahidah carried our baby on her chest, while accompanied, one in either hand, by two children of relatives (at times). Most of our fellow revellers were unaccompanied by young children and so we garnered an unfair share of stares.

We had booked a restaurant by the bay, overlooking the lapping water, above which the display would take place. It was an ideal location - for, the oppressive crowd, was kept behind a wall, around the open air area in which we sat. Between us and the water was a wedge of solid people beyond that wall. I was rather thankful that we had thought to book a table in advance, for the restaurant - like ALL the other restaurants on the bay, was totally booked - and had appointed staff to perform the rare task of keeping people out, rather than ushering them in. So, from the comfort of our tables, we were able to wait and watch for the celebrations to begin.

When they did, Fintan was asleep. We tried to wake him, by shaking him a little - but to no avail. Not even the artificial thunder, that was much more than any real thunder could be, of the exploding fireworks in front of us could wake him. He sat there through the first two minutes of the cacophony, tangible shock waves from the explosions passing through his body. I suppose it is reassuring to note that he is such a good sleeper, that not even deafening booms can wake him. Finally, we managed to wake him and he thereafter enjoyed the display.

Tiarnan, who had never seen or heard a firework before, was a little scared. He began the display in his grandfather's arms, but, on noting me, gestured that he wanted to be with me. He huddled to me - and I covered his delicate ears to protect him from the thunderous noise. From his place on my chest, he watched every explosion with intense curiosity, mingled with a little fear.

It was Ainan whose characteristic response amused. Instead of just watching the fireworks, as everyone else in this crowd that seemed to comprise much of the nation of four million did, he cried a word aloud at each bang. What was this word? It was the name of the substance that lent each firework its colour. So there we were, watching the biggest firework display of the year, with Ainan shouting out chemical names to each colourful display. It was hilarious, in a way - so very Ainan.

On our way back, it was notable that there was a sense of camaraderie in this usually quiet people. Hundreds sang, or chanted as one, or seemed to cheer simultaneously at causes unknown. It was however, only the Caucasians who actually spoke to each other. With one inebriated white male shouting Happy New Year to me as I passed beneath the balcony over which he leant. No Singaporean spoke to a stranger, although they were quite prepared to join in singing, or cheering: the safety of the group was more their style, than the reaching out, to and by individuals.

That is how our New Year began. I wish you all well in the coming year - may it be as you wish it to be.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley and his gifted brothers, please go to: I also write of child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:22 PM 


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