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, March 28, 2010

In the presence of superwoman.

Sometimes, being married to my wife is a humbling experience - physically humbling. You see, she is rather an athlete and I am not any longer (though once, long ago, in a time that now seems surreally different, I was rather fit myself).

Today, we went on the HELP University Trekathon, as they call it. It basically was a trek in a jungle like environment, in some very steep and hilly terrain. Indeed, that is just what the brochure describing the area said of it: "steep and tough". How tough, I can not even begin to express in these words. I came to the conclusion, about half way through the trek, that it was not something someone my age should even be attempting. Oddly enough, out of what must have been a couple of hundred contestants, there was no other of my age or older. Everyone above 30 - apart from my wife and I - was distinctly absent. In fact, my wife and I were the only people above 22 years old, at my best guess. Perhaps the curiously young demographic should have alerted me to the inappropriateness of my own presence there...but it was rather too late for such considerations, once it had all begun.

I don't know just how long the trek was. It certainly took quite a while. What got me was the steepness of it all - the constant need to climb up some unbearably steep hill, then to do the opposite on the way down...before going up again. It was rather exhausting, after a while. I wasn't the only one who noticed: many youngsters half my age, could be seen panting away to the sides of the "path" (there wasn't one, as such), unable to continue at just that time. Footing was precarious at times, the way being slippery, the mud wet, the terrain little more than tree roots, leaves and sodden soil. In places, the only way up, was to haul oneself up, on a rope, since the ascent was too steep and too slippery to ever be successfully attempted without it.

The trek was, for me, the most difficult physical challenge I have encountered in years. This is, no doubt, largely due to my being a thickset man, with a lot of weight to carry around. I was basically lifting a lot of weight up and down those hills. I also had a backpack on, with provisions for our kids. So, that made me even more heavy.

What was humbling, though, was the different response of my wife, Syahidah, to the challenge. Once we had finished, she observed, very disappointedly: "I had expected to get a real work out...but I just felt nothing." She then went off for a session of yoga, immediately afterwards!

We overheard a couple of students talking about us in a way which summed it up perfectly: "He was complaining...and she was going la-di-da, as if she was just taking a walk with the kiddies."

It was true. For Syahidah the trek required no real exertion. For me, it was an immense challenge. My kids, too, seem to be taking after her, in that respect. They all had no trouble at all with it. Even four year old Tiarnan managed to do the entire trek on his own (even if he had to use all four limbs, in places of particular steepness). It was evident that the other students were very impressed with him...indeed, they all seemed surprised that such a little boy could overcome such a challenge.

So, today was a humbling one. I saw my wife overcome with ease, a physical challenge which I found very difficult indeed. Not only that, but even my four year old had no trouble. It seems my years are telling upon me.

Interestingly, I saw not another mature person in the whole event. No doubt word of how challenging it was, had reached the other older potential participants - and they had given it a miss. Next year, I think I will do the same (unless I get fitter, in between).

The area was beautiful and the sights rewarding. However, the effort was far too exhausting to make it something I would do again, without a great change in my own athleticism.

Singapore, by the way, has no comparable physically challenging trek, in my knowledge - and I have been to all the major national parks and reserves. In that manicured land, such a challenge would be seen as threatening and would just have to be ironed out and made tamer. Malaysia, however, does not concern itself with such matters - hence today's overly rigorous trek.

It does occur to me that, actually, the trek is quite dangerous for the middle aged and over. I could easily see someone having a heart attack, attempting it. Perhaps an awareness of that possibility could be seen at the end station, where refreshments were available for all. Parked outside there was an ambulance, waiting, just in case. I don't think it was needed in the end - but the possibility of it being so, was certainly there.

If I have one suggestion to the organizers, it would be this: make it clear just how "steep and tough" the trek is, in parts, so that the less fit, might give it a miss. Otherwise, someone could get hurt.

I am glad I went, though, just so I could understand how physically adept my wife and sons are. It was, however, a tough lesson - and one that I doubt I will repeat.

Well done Syahidah and the boys.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:15 PM 


Blogger teacherlet said...

pulau ubin (of singapore) can be rather interesting if one's willing to try the road less travelled

7:59 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The island off Singapore? I haven't been there. Perhaps I will take a look sometime. Thanks for the tip.

11:40 AM  
Blogger teacherlet said...

haha, welcome :]

actually i've been following your blog for quite some time. always found the articles very engaging.

have fun over there in KL :]

6:50 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am glad you enjoy my blog. It is refreshing to hear that it is appreciated.

Actually, we are enjoying ourselves in KL: it is partly because everything is new, but also because everything is more VARIED and LARGER than Singapore. We simply have more choice of what to do, where to go, what to experience, how to live. The difference is greater than I had imagined it would be.

Thanks for your well wishes.

7:17 PM  

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