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, March 25, 2007

An encounter at a supermarket, Singapore

Yesterday, I took a trip to the supermarket. A ordinary thing to do, you might think. Yet, suddenly, it is not ordinary.

As I waited by the check out counter, a young man approached me - of Malay origin.

"Are you the Father?" he said, with a capital letter.

I knew which "Father" he must mean.

His hand waved uncertainly in the air in front of him, searching for words: "...of the boy who passed his O level?"

"Yes, I am."

"I was shocked when I read that..." he began, clearly looking even more shocked to have met me, a living, walking Front Page of A Newspaper. "Only seven." He said, as if he was explaining some deep matter of the Universe by this number - or more likely, posing one of the Universes greater mysteries.

"Yes." I agreed, "I was pretty shocked myself.", I found myself saying - which wasn't true at all. I hadn't been shocked in the least - it was what I expected. However, something in me thought that that is what he would have expected from me and so I conformed to his expectation to make him feel better about the world. Perhaps I shouldn't have - but it was meant as a kindness - a kind of empathic reaching out.

He nodded to himself, and held himself in that way that told me he was slightly breathless, struggling against speechlessness.

"Who taught him?" He continued, getting the Key Question out.

"I did."

"You did science in the past?" He probed, making probable connections.

"Yes...I was a physicist."

"But you taught him Chemistry..." he probed further, seeing some inconsistency.

"Yes, I re-learnt Chemistry so that I could teach him it."

He seemed at a loss as to how to continue, so I reached out my hand and shook his: "Nice to meet you." I said.

He kind of nodded, not knowing, perhaps, what to say.

Then I stepped back one or two steps, but something stopped me, something prompted me to a kindness of sorts: "What's your name?" I asked.

"Ashraf," he began, "I work here..." He looked me in the eyes, and repeated: "I work here."

I looked at him. He was in "plain clothes" - ordinary civilian attire, there being no uniform in sight, so I had no way of knowing whether this was true. Yet, he said it, so I accepted it. He must just be getting off work, I thought.

"Good...bye Ashraf!"

I left the store. I didn't look back, but it seems likely that I would have found his eyes upon me, had I done so.

It was a pleasant introduction to public recognition...and, to me, a surprising one. People really do read newspapers here - and pay attention to what is in them.

I wonder what is going to happen after today, with our family's appearance in the largest circulation newspaper in Singapore - The Sunday Times (of The Straits Times).

I will soon learn.

Best wishes all.

(If you would like to learn of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, or his gifted siblings, Fintan, three and Tiarnan, fourteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:55 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for a while, now, and I have been wondering why you call it "the boy who know *too much*"? Does Ainan really know "too much" Chemistry? To me, your title has a negative connotation. Would you ever tell Ainan that you think he knows too much?

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what it is that you enjoy so much about this fame? What is it about you that loves this attention?

When I was in high school, I wanted to be famous. I think my motive is that I never got any recognition from anyone, I was never accepted, and I wanted the whole world to accept me and recognize me. I was expected to be normal, but I wasn't. I wanted to be allowed to be extraordinary.

I think I still do want to be famous, but when I got to the point where I was ready to make an effort towards it, I realized that I have inhibitions about it.

I wonder if fame will give me what I want. I wonder if fame will give you what you want. I wonder if you have done any reflection on this, and what you have found?

- Kathy

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah i agree with you. The title put me off a little when i first opened the page.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Kathy, I don't yet know really what fame means. So far, it has meant pleasant encounters with pleased strangers. I hope it remains like that.

I hope you succeed in your aims. You will find that you will sell a lot of the "five books", you have previously posted about it, if you are well-known one day. Fame will enable that to happen. You can't really sell many if you are not known: it will give you access to the world in a new way.

We will see what happens here regarding it all. It is the beginning of something new.

Best wishes

5:18 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I called the blog the Boy Who Knew Too Much because I was constantly surprised at the sheer quantity of information available in Ainan's mind: it was a description of my amazement.

I would never tell him to know less! There was never meant to be a negative connotation - sorry.

Best wishes

5:20 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your feedback. I was new to blogging when I first began this blog...I have never had one before.

All I can say is that it was the best I could do at the time...and it is a bit late to change now. People know the blog by this name.


5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you think of a better title you can always retain the old title for a while so people will still find it with searches. E.g. "------, formerly The boy who knew too much." Your regular readers probably have bookmarks here anyway.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for the suggestion. We will see...but I have grown quite fond of the title.

Best wishes

12:00 AM  
Anonymous A Boy Who Read The News said...

Personally, I think that the boy is a very smart (from MY point of view as a child ).
I think that you should nurture him into a scientist. I was impressed as i was not even able to answer any of the questions from the Mini-quiz.
- Yong Xian

8:19 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your supportive comment. Yes, I intend to nurture Ainan's scientific gift as best as I may.

Best wishes to you.

8:29 PM  

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