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 +

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Tower of Babel.

I live on the top flour of an apartment block in Singapore. I could, therefore, be said to live in a tower. Today, that tower seemed like the Tower of Babel, for a moment.

You will recall the tale of Babel, and of how the people of the Earth were fated not to be able to speak in a common tongue. Well, today, Fintan came rushing back from the swimming pool, his hair all wet, his body not yet dry, with urgent words on his lips.

His mouth opened before me, as his eyes searched mine and out poured a string of alien sounds.

I looked at him in puzzlement, trying to make sense of what he had said.

He repeated the alien sounds, clearly puzzled by my lack of response to what were clearly urgent words.

Everyone else in the room began to Fintan's evident incomprehension: first I wouldn't react, second, everyone else was laughing. He didn't know why.

Then I told him: "Speak to me in English, Fintan."

At last he understood.

"Daddy, Ainan won't get out of the swimming pool!"

My second born son had spoken to me in Malay, in his urgency to be understood, not recalling, for a moment, that I speak very few words of that tongue.

It was a strange moment - and a distancing one. It felt very uncomfortable to see him so close to me, but unable to communicate. An awful remembrance comes to me now, of a South American man I once knew who was divorced from his Japanese wife. He spoke English and Spanish...but after a while his children began to forget their little English - and he was no longer able to communicate with his own children, for he had little Japanese. How terrible that must be. He had lost them more completely than just the divorce achieved. Well, today, for a moment, I felt that unbridgeable distance between father and son that comes when neither speaks the other's tongue.

Yet, there is another lesson here, too. It is that Fintan is becoming comfortable with his second language - so that he sometimes finds himself speaking it, without even realizing that he is doing so. One day, no doubt, he will be fully bilingual. He won't be my only son to be so.

I just hope he remembers to speak to me in English!

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:54 PM 


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