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, February 04, 2007

Tiarnan the baby "mountaineer"

I used to know a mountaineer: two in fact. They both shared the ideal that something should be climbed because they hadn't climbed it yet. They couldn't see a vertical challenge without itching to try it. I don't know the fate of both, but I know the fate of one: he left Oxford with a double starred First in Physics (that kind of means that you are brighter than God), then joined a famous firm as a Strategic Consultant of some kind. He then went on a mountain climbing holiday, at the age of 22. For reasons that may never be known, he managed to lose his footing, his grip or both - and fell 600 feet to his death. He was one of the brightest people I ever met. I rather wish he hadn't been a climber, though.

Anyway, such stories can only exacerbate parental worries. You see Tiarnan, twelve months, loves to climb. Today I took him to the playground and let him do something he has long been itching to do: climb up the vertical slides from the bottom. He had no trouble at all with this task, climbing the several metres of each slide, on his hands and knees, quite quickly. Since this was the first time I had let him do this, I was quite surprised at his facility. One slide was straight up and down, diagonally, the other was a spiral, but neither presented any difficulty.

Yesterday, he did something even more dangerous. He climbed up a ladder, all the way to the top and stood there, imbued with a sense of triumph. Needless to say, I stood behind him lest he fall, since I was curious about how far he would try to go. Again, he had no trouble with the task, despite it being the first time he has ever climbed a ladder. (I put it away after seeing him do that, because, of course, he would do it when I wasn't around, given the chance.)

Last week, he began to do something else which is enough to worry any parent: he climbed into his high chair from the floor and sat down in it. He has done it several times since. His method speaks of much upper body strength for his size, for what he does is hold onto the top of the chair from the ground and pull himself up until he can hook his leg over the top of the chair and then drags himself up. Not many adults would be able to do the manouevre, owing to a lack of the requisite arm strength, and a lack of the requisite flexibility to raise the leg above the head, to do so. He is quite a little athlete. It should be noted that, in his chair, there are no intermediate struts between ground level and chair level: so he cannot step up into it, he must haul himself up.

Tiarnan is not a thick set child, but he is of quite an athletic build, not large, but efficiently built. He is not tubby at all, in the way that many babies are.

Of course, this hobby of his presents us with a problem: to make sure he never tries to climb anything beyond his skill. It is true to say that Tiarnan requires more attention, at this age, than the other two children put together. I am half-hoping he will grow out of this habit: or are we to watch him climb ever taller objects as he gets older - making us ever more worried?

(If you would like to read more of Tiarnan, twelve months, Ainan, seven years and two months, a scientific child prodigy, or Fintan, three, please go to: I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted children and gifted adults in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:08 PM 


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