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 +

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tiarnan and the uncooperative vacuum cleaner.

Tiarnan is but eleven months old, but already he wants to help his mother around the house: in fact, he has long wanted to.

This morning, he wanted to vacuum the floor. Now, he has seen the vacuum cleaner in operation, but he has never seen it either plugged in by someone, or turned on: he has only been drawn by the noise of its operation and seen it used, after it has been set up. Therefore, he approached the task not actually knowing how it was done.

The vacuum cleaner has a very discrete design, with no obvious buttons or means of operation, to an untutored eye. He had, therefore, no clues to go on.

He took a hold of the long tube of the cleaner head and held it against the ground, ready for use. He had the correct orientation to the floor and, had it been turned on, it would have vacuumed the floor, so his observation, of what to do, had been good. Then, clearly seeing that the cleaner was not doing anything, he said to it: "Get up!" It was morning, so this was a reasonable instruction to give to a vacuum cleaner. Clearly it was still asleep. "Get up!" he shouted at it, again, as it refused to stir. Again nothing happened and Tiarnan's face was beginning to show frustration. He kept at it a few more minutes, with the occasional cry of: "Get up!" until he finally realized it wasn't going to do anything - and he became almost tearful with frustration.

The moment was too instructive of his relationship to the world for me to intervene, so I just watched how he handled the situation - to have done anything would have been to have spoiled the sweet moment. Next time I will show him how it actually works.

(If you would like to read more of Tiarnan or his gifted brothers, including scientific child prodigy, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and one month, 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 @ 6:46 PM 


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