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, April 04, 2010

How to win the aging race.

About four months ago, I was having a discussion with Fintan, six, about life. I have always found his discussions interesting since there tends to emerge from them, an unexpected wisdom. I find his way of seeing appealing and his quickness to understand refreshing. However, these are things that people who don't know him, tend to overlook - because they don't pause to actually talk to him. Thus, to them, he appears to be just a friendly, gentle boy - but he is much more than that. I suppose, in life, people often fail to see others as they are - because they fail to take the time or effort to get to know them.

I was sitting in the living room with the entire family when Fintan called across the coffee table to me:

“How old is Ramin?”

Ramin is the son of some friends of ours.

“Five”, I said, fairly, but not entirely sure of the answer.

“I’m six.”, he declared, with the merest hint of triumph.

“Yes and I am 41: I win!”, I announced, with a flourish I didn't feel.

“Actually, the sad thing about life and getting older is that the winner is really losing, because he has less time left. So I am winning but losing.”, I observed to Fintan, matter of factly.

There was not, then, the slightest pause before he answered: he threw back his answer as if he were playing tennis and reflecting the ball, even as it crossed the net to him.

“And I am losing, but winning.”

He looked at Ancient me, with his young eyes and there was something of mystery in them. There was no triumph in his declaration, no sense that he actually wanted to win this race. He understood, I felt, about life and mortality and that the fact that his father was "winning", but "losing" was nothing to be happy about. Fintan is like an ocean that not so much stretches off into the distance - as all oceans do - but which is deeper than one could ever know: it is filled with hidden, ever unknowable depths that may never be seen, or felt, but from which, the occasional hint of their existence emerges. So it is, in speaking to Fintan. Occasionally, he throws out a remark that makes you realize, in an instant, that he understands something you might not have expected him to, or that he has noticed something perhaps you didn't even notice yourself.

In an adult, one might call such a quality wisdom - but I am not sure if that is what it should be called in a child. It seems strange to think of a child as wise - since wisdom depends so much on time for reflection, growth and maturity. Perhaps, then, it should be called "insight". Fintan has flashes of unexpected insight and comes out with remarks, at surprising moments, that strike one as philosophical. I think he has a good feeling for life and what it means, yet I don't know where this intuition comes from, or where it might lead.

The funny thing about Fintan is that he is so disarming. His manner is so innocent, so gentle, so guileless that one simply does not expect him to come out with the things he does, when he does. Someone who did not know him well, could easily fail to know him at all. In a way, he is the most inaccessible of my sons, the one least accurately read, at first. It is very clear, for instance, that Ainan is effulgurantly bright; that Tiarnan is whimsical and surprising - but Fintan is not clearly seen: he is like a Teddy Bear that just happens to speak like Socrates, when you actually take the time to listen. Most people just see the teddy bear, however. These are, however, people who don't take the time to get know people. So, in just seeing Fintan's teddy bearishness, they are revealing that they are, themselves, a little shallow in their understanding of the world: they miss what is right in front of them.

Fatherhood is an adventure without limit. I cannot know where it is all going, what it all means, or what shall happen. All I can I do, is to do my best, along the way, to help my children on their individual journeys - whatever those journeys happen to be, or wherever they choose to go. Some people worry about failing as a father - but I don't think you can say that a father has failed, as long as he actually tries to be there, tries to help his children grow in whichever direction they choose. The only fathers who fail, are the ones who never try at all. Well, that is not me. I am trying, everyday, to understand, and to be guided by my growing understanding in how I might help my sons become whatever they choose to be. That choice, of course, is key. Some parents do all the choosing for their children. I think, however, that such children are likely to be chosen into unhappiness.

I don't know the future. I know this, however: my sons will be what they want to be, within the limits of what can be realized with whatever luck we have and whatever resources we can muster. I hope that will be enough.

In the meantime, Fintan will, no doubt, reveal glimmers of his unexpected wisdom and leave traces of conversations to be remembered for years to come.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:32 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if you know very much about MBTI or believe in such things, but out of all your children, I feel that I resemble Fintan the most. Sounds like he is an INFJ:


8:42 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi. I don't know much about MBTI but I am interested in learning: it looks like an intriguing system of categorization.

Thanks for the links, I will take a good look.

It is good to hear that you are like Fintan: I think he is a good soul!

Best wishes

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why thanks. I've learned quite a bit from your blog.

I didn't think much of MBTI at first but the descriptions were too accurate for me to deny. There are a lot of websites online but some of them are quite complicated and overanalytical. Here's the gist of it:

Basically there are 16 possible personality types which are each composed of 4 letters, picking one each out of the following:

I versus E: introvert versus extrovert
N versus S: intuitive (theoretical) versus sensing (practical)
T versus F: thinking (rational) versus feeling (emotional)
J versus P: judging (planning) versus perceiving (spontaneous)

Obviously, people can change and are more complicated than just 4 letters but it's pretty interesting nonetheless.

The test:

I would type your family like this:

your wife and Tiarnan-ISFP
you-a creative INTJ

Just a guess though.


11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im an ESTP... what's yours?

8:24 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your guesses as to how the people in my family are. We would have to take the test to confirm, but I think your choices are interesting...we will see.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. ESTP. I don't know what mine is, just now...I will have to find out. However, it has been guessed by a reader to be INTJ.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

effulgently, you mean.

Sorry, major spelling errors are a pet peeve of mine.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

re. effulgently., I DON'T mean "effulgently". I am sorry to say that your knowledge of the English language and its spellings is a lot more limited than your seeming arrogance supposes.

May I direct your attention to a use of the word "effulgurant" in a famous poet's work. Here is a link to a poem by a leading Australian poet and scholar.

Please note the use of the word "effulgurant".

I am sorry to note that your criticism actually reveals your own ignorance and not mine. Perhaps you should not assume that others are less informed than you are. You see, sometimes, they might just be MORE informed than you are.

Have a good spelling day.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, being "corrected" by people who are, actually, wrong themselves would become a major pet peeve of mine, too, were it not so rare.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not 40. I'm 21 years old with 19 years of experience!

Heh heh.

here's an article about aging -

9:28 PM  

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