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 +

Thursday, January 04, 2007

On being a father of three

Sigmund Freud came from a large family, with many siblings, as I understand it. He was also, in most eyes, "gifted". How did his parents cope with the demands of so many children, so many conflicting needs? Well, from one perspective, they didn't. They made the conscious decision to focus their attentions on young Sigmund, rather than the others - for they felt that he showed the greatest promise. We will never know what would have happened had they chosen to be more even in their handling of their children - but we do know what happened as a result of their decision: psychoanalysis was born and Sigmund Freud, grew up to be a Great Man.

I am the father of a young boy of seven, showing prodigious gift in science. However, I am also the father of two other sons, each of their own character and gifts. Being a father of three presents me with a smaller scale version of the Freuds' dilemma: how to raise my children? Do I focus my efforts on the one who shows so much promise...or foster the nascent gifts of the others, too, in an even handed way. The Freuds made their choice - and for Sigmund, it was a beneficial one - but at what cost to his siblings: what would they have been with a more even approach to their nurture?

I have observed that many gifted children are only children: their parents focus their attention on them solely, without the need for division of their attention. For the gifted child, this can only enhance their chances of making the best of their gifts. Perhaps, from the point of view of intellectual development, that is the best situation. Yet, a parent of several children cannot give that exclusive focus unless they are, to a degree, cold of heart. All my children are deserving of my fullest attention - yet, by definition full attention can only be bestowed on one person at a time. I observe in each of my children, some special character that deserves a father's fullest regard - yet, they pull me in three directions. So what do I do? I have chosen the even path - and give to each what I can each day. Perhaps if Ainan was my son alone, his mind would be that bit more nourished, his gifts that bit more polished - but I cannot help but feel that I would not give up any of my sons for such a thing. Ainan is one of three, today, perhaps more, another day. To each child I give what I can of my time, my effort - and do not think that any other way would be fair or loving.

Those who have but one child, gifted or not, do not have to make that choice, that division of attention between children. When a second child comes along they will understand this quandary that has no solution - for to be fair in attention, is to sacrifice some degree of the development of the "brightest" child. That cannot be helped, however, if one loves all one's children for themselves.

I will have more children, if I am fortunate, and as my attention becomes ever more divided between them, I will not for a moment doubt my choice. I would rather another child, than a situation in which I had but one to focus on. The house would be more the quieter, but it is not a quietness I would choose. Better the hubbub of many little voices: it is a sound which brings its own happiness - and one that I am quite content to know.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and one month, a scientific child prodigy, 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 @ 9:03 PM 


Blogger EbTech said...

On the positive side, siblings can learn from each other.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Yes. You are right. They do learn from each other. However, what they learn from each other is different to what they would learn from a parent, with more time to be with them.

1:02 PM  

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