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 +

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Art of Learning Patience.

Today, I was with my two younger sons in a food court. These are typically Singaporean food outlets at which a large range of different stalls offer various foods and drinks of several cuisines. They are usually laid out with the food stalls on the periphery - as this one was - with seating in the central area.

"What do you want?", I asked my three year old son, Tiarnan.

"Green tea.", he said, his little finger pointing out the canned drink in question. This is a popular drink in Singapore and consists of brewed green tea with sugar added.

Fintan also indicated the tea.

Finding a table was hard. The first table we went to was empty barring a single girl.

"Can we sit here?" I asked.

"Taken." she said, of the empty chairs.

I didn't believe her. You see, before she answered she took a long appraising look at my young children and seemed to decide that they wouldn't make good, proximate, company.

After some hunting, we found someone who agreed to let Tiarnan and Fintan (five) sit at their table.

I left them with the green teas, cups full of ice - on a mission to buy a local dessert.

The queue was quite long at the dessert stall. So it was about ten minutes before I was served. As I waited, I looked over regularly at my two boys, some twenty five metres away. They seemed quite happy. They spent most of the time facing each other, as if in conversation. Occasionally, I saw them toy with their cups. I thought them to be enjoying their drinks. It was notable that they did NOT run around, nor unsettle the people next to them.

After perhaps a dozen minutes I returned and sat down with the dessert in hand.

Fintan looked sidelong at me and picked up his can of green tea - and tilted it subtly towards me so that I might see its top.

It hadn't been opened. I looked across at Tiarnan's: neither had his. I had forgotten to open their cans for them!

I was at once struck with the maturity and control with which they had sat so long waiting for me to return, considering that neither of them had actually had a drink to nurse during that time. I felt a flash of unexpected parental pride. I was impressed. It was a little thing - but, given their ages: three and five, I really didn't expect them to have been able to sit so patiently, so long, without anything to drink or to do, other than to talk to each other. Clearly, they have found ways of conversing that fill the time more than adequately.

I opened the cans and let them enjoy them, as I smiled a little to myself. It is funny how, even at the most unexpected moments, one's children can be surprising - even if in ways that might be overlooked, if one wasn't attentive to them.

Thank you, Tiarnan and Fintan, for having learnt enough of the art of patience, to have waited for me so long.

(By the way, no one ever did sit down at the "taken" table I had first enquired at - at least not in the time we were there.)

(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 @ 6:12 PM 


Blogger  said...

Spoilt single children are the bane of every educator.

I provide private tuition lessons for children and I have this particular child who thinks that he is the 'king of the house'.

But I must say that his parents are too lenient to him. This child frequently lies to me and his parents when asked about homework, but all his parents does is tell him to do is "don't be so stressed, take it easy".

I remembered when I was a child, my mother taught me many important morals and values which shaped my character, even though she was strict with me.

So I guess parents play a vital role in the character of the child! And this student of your probably was the result of bad parenting!

12:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lovely story (except the part about the table being "taken").

Your sons behaved in a very special way. I would hazard a guess that most adults would not be that patient. ;)

-- Maria --

5:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How old was the girl? Why would she think that your boys wouldn't make good company?

-- Maria --

5:34 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, I thought it was a special moment that deserved record. Children are so often depicted as chaotic and unruly - but what if they just sit still and thoughtful, for a while? Is that not a great moment of childhood?

7:55 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Maria,

The girl was in her twenties...but had the kind of "stay away from me" personality you sometimes see. Her "space" was more important to her, than her relations to particular children who would only, in her estimation, be an unruly irritation. At least, that is what her stance, attitude and expression on evaluating my sons seemed to say.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's true - children are often depiced as chaotic and unruly, which is a shame. True, some/most children have not yet learned the "rules" of society but in one way, this can be a blessing too because the natural actions like running around and laughing are usually an expression of happiness and I can't see any fault in that (unless it may be inappropriate for example in a classroom). Too often I see parents with their children on public transport; the child may speak excitedly about their day and the parent seems to be annoyed and may be telling the child to be quiet. I ask myself: Why should the child be quiet on a bus?

However, of course where you have children who sit still and share a thoughtful moment - like your sons - , you can't help but smile warmly at the thought.

I talked about "the problem with a blog like this" in another post, which I can't find anymore. So sadly I can't read your answer. I just wanted to clarify that I don't think there's anything wrong with YOUR blog at all. It's just a shame that one can't receive notifications of a comment made and an answer received. That is the case on for example which makes it easier to carry on a conversation.

-- Maria --

11:13 PM  

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