Natural hairstyle and individuality
As regular readers will know, Fintan, four, has curly hair. Yet, we live in Singapore - a "Land of the Straight-Hairs", as I call it. Basically everyone, apart from foreign visitors, has straight, black, flat hair.
A few days ago, Syahidah took Fintan to the Science Centre, in Singapore. This is a kind of interactive Science Museum - though not as extensive as the Science Museum in Kensington, London, that I remember from my childhood, it is still worth a visit, particularly for children.
While wandering around the exhibits, Syahidah noticed two children who looked rather surprising: they both had curly hair.
"Look Fintan!" she pointed them out to him, "They are like you."
He looked and he saw and then he spoke a little disenchantedly, "Yeh, but who is the father?"
His arm picked out a man far away across the room, amidst the bustle of many people coming and going - a curly headed man. How he spotted the man in such a crowded, busy, poorly lit, room is a marvel - but being sharp of eye is typical for Fintan.
There was too much separation between the children and the "father" so Syahidah watched him for a while. Soon enough she saw him close the gap between them and interact with the kids: sure enough, he was the father.
This was one of the only occasions that Fintan has ever seen another curly headed person. Two things are interesting here: first, he was very quick to scan the environment and link the distant curly headed man as father to the nearby curly headed children. But also, it is telling, perhaps in a sad way, the conclusion he drew from this: that those children had reason enough for their curly hair - but he did not. You see neither his mother nor his father have curly hair - but we both have slightly wavy hair. It seems that two genetic doses of "wavy" is enough to make hair curly.
Why do I write this? Well, Fintan feels set apart by his appearance here, in Singapore. No other child of his acquaintance looks remotely like him. He doesn't look Malay (but is half-Malay), he doesn't look Irish (but is half-Irish), he doesn't look Chinese (but speaks it a little), he doesn't look Indian (but occasionally eats their food!). He has no real visual affiliation with any of the basic groupings of Singapore. Being of two different racial lineages, he looks only like his brothers. Allied to this disparity of race, is his hairstyle - abundant, never straight, curls, with plenty of natural body - and this makes him feel marked out from his fellow children. That feeling is unlikely to ever leave him, unless we live somewhere else.
Even Syahidah's attempt to make him feel that there were others, by pointing out the curly-headed children fell flat - because the father's appearance made it clear where their appearance comes from: Fintan has no such understanding of his origin. He cannot say to himself: "My hair looks like Daddy's" or "My hair looks like Mummy's". The fact is, it looks like neither's. Perhaps, then, he feels a little unanchored, a little set adrift. He needs to be moored to the facts of his origin - in a comprehensible visual way - but, owing to his mixed genetic lineage, he cannot really have that. The admixture has obscured his origins - and made something new.
Yet, I am happy for him that he is different. He is different in many ways - and not just hair. He is very much himself and unlike any other. In time, I think he will come to appreciate that and learn to be content with the way things are. It is just that, at four years old, finding common ground with one's fellow youngsters is a big social issue.
I look forward to the day when he is happy to be a stocky, curly headed, half-Irish, half-Malay, handsome man!
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and nine months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and two months, and Tiarnan, nineteen months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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.)