Prodigies present their parents with unique problems. One problem is communication with them, in their chosen area.
Ainan is a scientist with a specialist interest in Chemistry - but with other areas developing, too. As his father, and only scientifically aware relative, I have a great responsibility: providing him with someone to talk to, about his chosen subject area. Now, this wasn't such a big problem when he first started investigating Chemistry - but, as the months pass, and he gallops along, I find that he has already surpassed me, in his chemical knowledge - indeed, he did so some while ago. How then, am I to communicate with him?
Well, I have one advantage - and that is many years of general scientific reading and education. I have an understanding of many scientific concepts - and the ability to learn new ones rapidly. In this manner, should Ainan make a scientific observation or proposition, I am able to evaluate whether it is scientifically reasonable and feedback my thoughts on the matter. Yet, there remains a problem: his reading is becoming ever deeper and ever more technical and with it, his knowledge. There is no doubt that he now knows more Chemistry than I ever knew, despite the fact that I took Chemistry up to the end of my first year at Cambridge. Ainan is outgrowing his father's scientific knowledge - at least in his area of interest. Outside of that area, his scientific speculations and understandings are becoming ever more complex - and so, perhaps, one day, I will wrestle with the same problem outside of Chemistry, too.
This developing situation of which I speak will occur with any parent of a prodigy child, to some degree. If the child is truly prodigious, then they will outgrow the parent, in their chosen area, unless the parent is a practising, ever learning and growing professional in the area of the child's expertise. I am not. I am a generally educated scientist, but don't practise as a professional Chemist (though I used to be a Physicist).
So, what do I do? I try to keep up with his reading so that I can provide him with a sounding-board for his thoughts; a scientific confidante. I am able to do this at present, for my scientific understanding is very broad - and I learn new concepts quickly, allowing me to talk things through with him.
One day, though, I know that I alone will not be enough for him. One day, he will speak and I will have no means to understand. Should that day come, and Ainan have no other chemically trained person to talk to, he will be alone, in the world, in his thoughts. I hope to forestall that day by re-teaching myself Chemistry (after all, it is two long decades since I studied it) and by learning Chemistry I never knew, just to keep up. Yet, how much longer can I run along behind him? Can I keep pace with him, so that he has someone to relate his thoughts to? His mind is younger and fresher than mine, so I labour at a natural disadvantage. My mind will slow as his grows strong. Clearly, there will come a time when I cannot converse with him as he might wish - unless I make as much an effort to become a well-versed chemist as he does.
This, then, is the situation of all parents of a prodigy child. As the child grows in their discipline, they grow further apart from the parent, until the day comes when parent and child can no longer converse. Is it not sad, that victory in the child's growth, inevitably leads to a kind of mental division from the parent? Yet, that is what every parent of a prodigy unknowingly seeks, in trying to help their child grow. They seek the day when parent and child can no longer talk, and be understood.
There is a kind of irony in that, that I am not sure I am comfortable with - yet, I try to enable my son's progress, knowing, even as I do, that I am taking him to a place of which, he will not be able to speak to me.
How strange is life, that victory should also be a kind of defeat.
Good luck Ainan. If you ever read this, know at least that I tried to keep up.
(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, or his gifted brothers Tiarnan, thirteen months and Fintan, three, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html
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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