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 +

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Christmas, in recent years, has been quite surreal for me. When I grew up, in Europe, Christmases were times of chill weather and gloomy skies, but inner cheer and shared good humour. These days, however, Christmases are times of humid, hot weather (gloomy skies, still!) but with the same inner cheer and good humour, though this time shared not with my family of siblings, but with my new family, of children (and a wife). It is different. The feeling is different. In a way, now, I am looking back at my own childhood Christmases, as I see my own children enjoy theirs. I have become the outsider, looking at my own former Christmases, through the lens of how my children see theirs. It is a good perspective, actually - for now I can both enjoy it from the inside and the outside at the same time. Christmas has become more multi-layered for me.

When I was a child, I don't think I saw my parents' perspective on Christmas. I don't think I saw what they saw. I only saw what I saw. Now, however, I see my own Christmas and that of my children, at the same time. I see what my parents saw, having become a parent myself. It is a much more complex perspective and one that, I think, is informative. It is what comes of becoming a parent in the first place. Life's meaning becomes clearer - but ever more complex. Things that were once seen and enjoyed, as a child, are seen and enjoyed, again, as an adult, seeing the children from the outside. It is the same scene - but it has gathered new meanings, new depths and a new sweetness, that it did not have before.

In a way, Christmas is much more meaningful when you are a parent, than when you are a child. As a parent, Christmas truly becomes about giving, as a child it was largely about receiving. As a parent, Christmas is about the pleasure of others (one's children), as a child it was largely about the pleasure of oneself. As I have grown, so has Christmas. It is now a much larger thing than when I was a child. Of course, I don't feel it with the excited intensity of a young child anticipating the opening of their presents - but I do feel something else: the profundity of the moment, its special character for my children. I am ever aware that, for them, these moments become memories that will accompany them through life. They will refer to these times, later, as they grow up. They will become, for them, a time of nostalgia, a time for remembrance and wistfulness. That, in its way, is a greater pleasure, for a parent, than any Christmas was for me, as a child. You see, we are giving our children a memorable childhood, even as we give them an enjoyable Christmas. So, I think the best gift of all, is not any particular present, but the gift of the childhood, itself, of which this Christmas time is part.

One day, my children, now so focussed on their own experience of the moment, will grow and become parents themselves. Then they will see us, as now I see my own parents. They will come to understand what we did, what we were, how we felt and what it all meant. So, one day, it will all have come full circle, and my children shall be parents and their children shall be enjoying the Christmas they provide. There is a definite poetry and profundity in that. The endless (hopefully) cycle of life has a beauty in it that, at times, people forget - or perhaps never knew. We all become each other, in time. Parents were once children. Children shall one day be parents. In time, all perspectives are seen and life is finally understood. The pity of it, of course, is that, once we have lived long enough to truly understand life, that there is little of it left - we shall be old and the time for remaining reflection and reverie shall be short. Then we shall understand something else: how it feels to say goodbye.

I hope that human lives can become longer so that there is more time to enjoy the insight that comes with age. It is such a treasure to have such wisdom, it seems a great pity that its possession should signal the shortness of time to come. So, if I have one Christmas wish it shall be this: that people should learn how to live longer, so as to enjoy the depth of understanding of life, that comes with age. Such a treasure should be enduring and not fleeting. Perhaps if those that understood life, well, lived longer, all might benefit from their perspective and life would become more meaningful for all. The old are to be valued and not scorned, as some societies seem to do. For only the old have truly had time to see life from all perspectives and come to know what it all means. Though they may be physically weak, they can be strong in understanding - and it is for this that they should be valued.

Merry Xmas to everyone, the world over, who happens to stumble on this Christmas post. In particular, Merry Xmas to any of my family members, anywhere, who happens to read this.

(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 @ 11:57 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear mr. cawley,

merry christmas to you and your family.

on a lighter note, i do miss christmas in sunny and humid singapore. the canadian winter can be hard on body and soul.


3:05 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your comment.

Yes, it is probably true that a hard winter is hard to bear...however, sometimes, NO winter, EVERY year, is also hard to bear, in a different way. My children, for instance, have never seen snow. If they stay here, they never will. I think they are missing something - snow is a good childhood memory to have.

However, it is true to say that snow is becoming rarer every year, as the world warms. One day, perhaps, no-one will know what snow is (if any of us survive such a situation).

Merry Xmas to you in chilly Canada.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Onlooker said...

Merry Christmas Valentine :)

9:05 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Onlooker...and a Merry Xmas to you too - and thanks for all your comments throughout the past year.


10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


So, your wife was originally a Muslim?

6:51 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You know, I tire of these questions about religion. When I grew up it was the height of rudeness to ask anyone personal questions of any kind - only someone utterly uncultured would do such a thing.

My wife has not changed her religion and I do not see why she should. Religion is a personal and private matter of NO interest to anyone else. To pry into it, is to be rude in the extreme.

Only since I came to Singapore has anyone asked me about religion. I find this funny. It means one thing very clearly: Singapore is NOT a religiously open and accepting society. It is society filled with divisive opinions on the issue - otherwise people would not need to know such things about each other - they would be considered unimportant or a non-issue.

Another thing: no-one EVER calls anyone by their surname, in my culture, unless they are being rude, or happen to be a schoolteacher in a public school. It isn't done.

Religion is not a matter for public consumption - and it is something that should never concern anyone. Those who "need to know" are always religious bigots of some kind. Those who accept other people's religions are never concerned by what religion another follows - for whichever one it is is immaterial.

Why not accept others as they are? That is the best way to live.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Dear Mr. Cawley,

Merry Christmas! I have enjoyed reading your blog throughout the year. I hope you find that book you wanted to read over the holidays.


8:18 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Shannon...and a Merry Xmas (and Happy New Year to you).

By the way, thanks for your advice re. the copyright notice. I have, as you might have noted, implemented the wording you suggested. It is much appreciated.

Best wishes.

9:16 AM  

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