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, January 07, 2008

Singapore's Hospitals: a child's view.

Yesterday, Fintan went to hospital. Not to stay, you understand, just to be treated.

As is the way with children, Fintan invented a way to harm himself, yesterday, while playing in the swimming pool. It wasn't the obvious ways in which water is dangerous, but one characterized by unlikelihood. Somehow, Fintan managed to find something sharp in the swimming pool, and bump into it, with his head. It seems to have been a step on the way out, as he swam underwater. He is not entirely clear on the issue - and I can understand why, for the pool was rather crowded at the time. There was just too much going on.

He never noticed it, at the time. It was only as he rose from the pool to greet me that I caught sight of the unwelcome colour on the side of his cheek. There was blood pouring from his eye. I moved closer, in a calm hurry, to examine it more closely.

"Come Fintan, we have to go, now." I said, quietly, so as not to alarm him, overly, "You have cut yourself". There was what appeared to be quite a deep incision on the eyelid just next to his eye. It was about a centimetre long and gaped at me most discomfitingly.

He said nothing. He did not protest as he usually did, when asked to leave the pool (a process that can take some twenty minutes, some days). He must have realized something was wrong.

I was struck by his calmness. He seemed so mature in that moment. He didn't panic, didn't get upset, didn't make a fuss, he just came with me, blood streaming from his eye, as he walked.

We went home, where I had a closer look. It was definitely a matter for the hospital. My wife was on her way home, so I waited until she arrived and we went together.

At the hospital, the check in staff quietly looked at Fintan's eye and wrote "E" on the admissions paper, for "emergency". We were soon seen by a nurse, within a few minutes of arrival.

She was Indian. Fintan listened to her and answered her questions softly, with a very serious face.

She told me he wasn't to eat or drink until the doctor had seen him.

Before being allowed to see the doctor, we had to pay at reception for the treatment.

The receptionist was Indian, too.

A few minutes later, the doctor was viewing Fintan's injury.

"You are a very lucky boy." He observed. "A centimetre lower and you would have cut your eyeball."

"Close your eyes." He asked Fintan and Fintan did so, sitting quietly, without flinching, while the Doctor administered to his wound.

"You've got two cuts here.", he remarked.

He then began to clean the injury but what had, at first, seemed to be two cuts, resolved itself into one, the second being merely dried blood.

"Glue." He said to his assistant, who moved forward to get to work. He shook his head. "I'll do this one...", he stated.

"Super glue?" I asked.

"The same compound, yes...just longer molecules." he explained, "It takes longer to dry than the short ones used commercially."

He turned to Fintan and said: "This will hurt a little. Don't move. I have to get it to close up, well."

Fintan didn't flinch. He lay perfectly still.

He held the gash taut between two fingers and applied the glue gently, with what looked like a tiny pad or brush.

As he did so, he gave us aftercare instructions.

Throughout I was impressed with Fintan's stillness. He seemed so mature in his self-control. There was not a budge of any kind from him. His entire body was perfectly still. Yet, he is only four years old.

I think he is rather a brave little boy, in his way.

All was done. It looked a good clean job. Even with a narrow scar, it shouldn't be too visible, being as it is, tucked just above the eye. He was lucky.

As Fintan was leaving he turned to us and said: "I didn't get a sweet this time."

That was a reference to a time a year or two before, when he had been given a sweet by a nurse.

We both smiled...and bought him some chocolate.

As he left the hospital, he pointed up into the air, at a flag fluttering, from the side of the hospital.

"Why is there a Singapore flag?" he said, puzzled.

I looked and saw that it was indeed a Singaporean flag.

"Why isn't it an India flag?"

I laughed then, because I understood what he meant. Many of the staff in the hospital had been Indian. So, he thought that a better description would have been an Indian flag.

"Because it is Singapore, Fintan." I explained to him, but much preferring his view of the hospital. Indeed, there is often more truth to a child's view than to an adult's constrained perceptions. There DID seem to be more Indians working there, than others.

I patted his head, just glad that his eye was OK.

I rather hope that there are not too many more visits to hospital, in my childrens' childhoods.

It did teach me something about Fintan, though. He is very calm and collected in a crisis. He also exhibits great self-control - and he doesn't panic. Such qualities can be very valuable, in many areas of life. I wonder if he will ever get to use them?

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, 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 @ 11:08 PM 


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