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 +

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Children's Day, Singapore, October 1st

October 1st, every year, in Singapore is Children's Day. This is, as the name suggests, meant to be a day of celebration of children and childhood. At least, that is the theory.

Fintan enjoyed a party of some kind, at school, for Children's Day - and, in the evening, Syahidah arranged for an outing to mark the day. We had in mind two activities - one for Ainan and one for Fintan.

For Ainan we wanted to go to the top of one of the tallest buildings in Singapore. Ainan has an interest in tall buildings, and has an encylopaedic knowledge of their heights, locations and designs. He has even been to the top of the Petronas Twin Towers (the tallest twin towers in the world) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (He did so a few weeks ago).

However, we had not been to the top of any of Singapore's tall buildings.

Anyway, we went to UOB Plaza and into UOB tower, myself, my wife and two children in tow. We had done our research and knew that, although we couldn't go to the top (62nd storey), we should be able to go to the restaurant on the 60th floor.

Once in the lobby, I soon saw an escalator going up, with a sign on its side: "Restaurant 60th floor". I saw others taking it, upwards, one after the other. I walked towards it, trailing my family. I was within three steps of it, when a guard approached. "Where are you going?" He asked. "The restaurant." I said pointing upwards.

He looked at his watch. "Six thirty. It opens at six thirty."

He wasn't going to let us up. I could see that. The matter of the opening time of the restaurant was just an excuse. It should have been obvious why we wanted to go up to the sixtieth floor with children in tow: to see the view. That, however, was not to be allowed.

I did note that no-one else had been stopped - only us. It must have been because we had children with us. A funny thing this Children's Day: people are so charitable on it - and clearly believe in the importance of children.

Next we tried Republic Plaza. This too is a very tall tower - similar to UOB Tower.

This time I thought it best to approach the guard directly and raise the issue with him, to gain permission.

"Is it OK if I take my children up?"

"Yes. Sure." he said.

Great, I thought, that simple.

I turned to call my children in.

"Which floor?" he then asked.

"The top."

"Oh no. You can't go up there. It is a private club: the Tower Club."

It seemed that he had supposed that I was taking my children up to my office. Once it was clear that I was just visiting the matter became an impossibility.

"What about another floor? A high floor?"

"No. You can't go up. It is not open to the public." He had changed from helpful to resistive in an instant. It was almost funny to watch, were it not to our disadvantage.

"Where then?" asked Syahidah, "Where in Singapore can we go up to the top of the towers?"

"In Singapore?" he began, as if to say..."Are you mad? Don't you know what it is like around here?" "They are all closed to the public. Except for Raffles could try there."

"The restaurant?"


No - we both thought. Not tall enough - and too far from where we were now, what with our other plans to see to.

So, Republic Plaza wouldn't let two children go up to the top on Children's Day, either.

A funny thing this Children's Day: people are so charitable on it - and clearly believe in the importance of children.

My wife didn't want to go back to try UOB Tower again for it had seemed clear that he just didn't want us to go up. There was no reason why we couldn't go up to the sixtieth while the restaurant was closed: the view would still be open.

Ainan managed not to be too disappointed, though we had failed to give him his wish for the day. Or more precisely Singapore had failed to deliver what it could so easily have done.

It is a puzzle really. I have been to New York and been to the top of the Empire State Building. No-one tried to stop me. No-one said I couldn't. I am sure, too, that I could have brought my children had they been born at the time. Most countries make tourist attractions of their tallest buildings - but not Singapore. Singapore makes a no-go area of them. I can't see why.

The next wish was easier to grant. We went to the cinema to see Azur and Azmar - a fantastic film set in a world that never was - one of Arabian magic and Djinn Fairies. My wife particularly liked it because of the drawing style of the cartoons. It was directed by Michele Ocelot and is to be recommended to those who have children whose imaginations have not yet died. Even if they have, this might perk them up a bit. I won't say too much about it, lest I do what I loathe to see others do: spoil the plot. Let us just say it takes a look at childhood, motherhood and how lives turn out. It is also a comment on brotherly love and sibling rivalry.

One thing I did note on going to the cinema was that we had to take an MRT (underground train). I have never done this before with my children in tow, since we normally use taxis with them. I was rather surprised to note one thing: there was no children's rate. Both our children paid the full adult fare. That is rather surprising, especially compared to all the other countries I have been to. Everywhere that I can recall has a children's rate for transport - and for cinemas, by the way. Our children paid the full adult rate for the film, too.

Singapore may have a Children's Day - but it is far from being a child friendly city or culture. Perhaps that is why so many potential parents, here, choose never to become parents at all. Nothing is free here. In England, kindergarten was free, when I was a child - here, in Singapore, it is most definitely not - and is really quite expensive.

Everywhere we went, on Children's Day, our children had to pay their way, like fully-fledged adults: on the train, in the cinema...and at the restaurant (no children's portions).

Personally, I think it is a very short-sighted way to build a nation. The future of the nation is the little ones, the children. Yet, despite the existence of a Children's Day - and even on Children's Day itself - children get short shrift in Singapore. There are no concessions made here for parents or children. A country that chooses not to support children, in this way, is one that won't have too many children to support. In a few short decades, such a nation, will be an ex-nation. For without children, there is no future.

It comes as no surprise that Singapore has one of the lowest total fertility rates in the world (at 1.26 births per woman, listed 186th out of 195 countries, on Wikipedia). That rate, note, is so far below replacement rate that, without immigration, Singapore would drop to 60 % of its original population in one generation. It wouldn't take too many generations for there to be nation, at all.

Everywhere we went on Children's Day, not one Singaporean showed any evidence of consideration towards our children. No-one in Singapore seemed to know that it was Children's Day - or what Children's day meant.

A funny thing this Children's Day: people are so charitable on it - and clearly believe in the importance of children.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and ten months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and three months, and Tiarnan, twenty months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:40 PM 


Anonymous Leon said...

Hi I came upon your post while googling for "children's day Singapore". I am trying to plan something to do with my 6-year-old next week.

I can appreciate your sentiments, esp. the bits about how Singapore gives no quarter to kids but demands every cent from them after 90 centimetres.

I think nothing much has changed. This country decided its attitude to its peop... I mean "human resources" long ago and I don't see it changing much, baby bonuses or not.

At the end of the day, it is the parents' will and attitude to their kids that counts, for the kids. I salute your attempts last year, and hope you have a better Children's Day this year. :)

10:33 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Leon, it is strange that there are no special rates for children. All other developed countries have many concessions for children - it makes raising them easier and less expensive, which should be the idea - for why burden families more?

Singapore, however, has other ideas: it thinks it is possible to extract every last cent from families and still have families. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way...just look at the birth rate.

I hope you find something good to do with your son next week.

Kind regards

3:02 PM  

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