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, April 23, 2007

Ainan, the unconscious actor?

Over the past few months, Ainan has adopted a range of expressions which I had not seen on his face before. These expressions are incongruous when set against what I know of him. Where have they come from and why are they there?

Recently, I had the chance to find out. I managed to observe a number of children from his classroom and watch how they were. After a while, I noted something really peculiar: I saw those expressions of Ainan on another's face. At once, I understood: Ainan had acquired expressions from others - the expressions I had begun to see, were not even his own.

Why would he do this? Well, a gifted child has to do many things to blend into their environment - and to be accepted. Ainan had clearly found another way to be accepted: be like those around him, incorporate their expressions and actions into his repertoire - become, in some superficial sense, as they are.

On the one hand I feel like congratulating Ainan on his socially skillful manoeuvre. How can a child not accept another child that echoes himself? On the other hand, I feel saddened, for Ainan is sloughing off some of his own uniqueness in social situations, to become more like the people he is with and so allow him to be accepted. He is being less of himself in public.

There is another matter which concerns me. The expressions themselves fit another personality. One set of them fits a rather foolish personality - so it is really startling when Ainan uses these expressions - because they are those of a fool. Anyone who did not know Ainan, on seeing this, would seriously misjudge him. In those expressions, he has captured the essence of dullness. It is quite perturbing to see Ainan assume such a face. Yet, assume it he does, for social reasons.

Is Ainan consciously acting or unconsciously doing so? I would guess that it began as conscious imitation but has since become an unconscious pattern repertoire, which he deploys in what seems like a suitable situation.

Perhaps, if Ainan were away from that social context he would, over time, drop this new behaviour and become as he was. In many ways, I would prefer that - but I understand why he is doing this. It helps him be accepted - and he is successful at it, for he has many friends. Yet, it may be true to say that some of these friendships have come at a price - the price of altering his social self to fit those around him.

On balance, however, I feel happy that Ainan has the social skills and personality to allow him many friends. For many gifted children, in his position, are almost friendless. It seems that he knows how to behave to make others comfortable with him - and to get them to like him. I suppose that that is another kind of gift. Yet, it is disconcerting to see one of those social skills at work, sometimes.

Perhaps this is the way with all of us. We are different in different contexts. So, too, is it with Ainan - but it was a surprise for me to come to understand what was happening.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:02 AM 


Anonymous SRi said...

Firstly, I just want to say what a wonderful blog this is. I've been reading bits each day since I discovered it last week. Everything just makes so much sense, its incredible!

This part in particular had me thinking... I can relate to this so much, but never really acknowledged it before.

I have a lot of friends. So often I would wonder why the majority of them never get along with each other, yet I get on just fine with them all.

They are all very different. From different backgrounds, cultures, countries etc. My friends don't really mix with each other to well so I spend time with them separately.

However, recently one of my closest friends has been spending a lot of time with me and has got to meet some of my other friends. Ok.. I have a LOT of friends!!! She noticed that I behave very differently - almost as if I had multiple split personalities - depending on which group of friends I was with.

After reading about Ainan, this brought back some memories. Going back almost 15 years, my school report - we had 10 subjects at school (10 teachers, 10 different groups of students) - I remember my parents reading the report and saying "each of these reports seems like a different person".

So anyway, this is becoming too much of an essay... the point is, maybe this is what I was doing. Adapting to my surroundings.

This has got me thinking. I may have to starting my own blog lol.


9:38 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is good that you are awakening to yourself through these words. From what you say, I would say that you have a highly honed social skill that is nascent in Ainan. I think such a skill is very useful. Perhaps you should have been an actor. Maybe you yet will be.

Very few people are as adapatable as you seem to be. You have already found a use for it, in having so many friends - but there may be other uses too, which might bring benefit.

Best of luck.

10:17 PM  

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