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 +

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Right Stuff.

Sometimes, character is more important than anything else.

Over a week ago, Fintan went running with his mother, Syahidah. Now, as most regular readers will know, my wife is a rather athletic woman: she simply breathes physical exertion and has a love of challenging sporting activities that would just intimidate most people.

So, Syahidah ran alongside Fintan, rather amiably. It was a run around our neighbourhood, on the street in the early evening, as the sky began to take on a pink tinge. It was pleasant, as most evenings are, around here. She was enjoying her companionable run beside her seven year old son. He began to pull ahead of her, somewhat, but she wasn’t concerned that he had any chance of winning – for there was something she rather thought he was not considering: eventually they would have to run uphill. At that point, she expected Fintan to slow down and her to catch up and overtake him.

She jogged on, for some minutes. As they rounded a corner in the street and began the uphill climb home, Fintan did, indeed, begin to slow down. Running uphill is a big enough challenge for a seasoned adult –but, for a young boy, it was certainly quite an effort.

Syahidah smiled to herself, inwardly. Now, she was going to overtake him.

At this moment, Fintan did something unexpected. He suddenly started to pump his legs faster and faster, leaping forward UP the hill, as if it wasn’t really there. He raced ahead. Syahidah tried to catch him, but simply couldn’t match his pace. He was off, leaving her trailing in the distance.

I was waiting in front of our house, for their return. Fintan came rushing around the corner, racing towards me with a grin.

At last, he stood before me, curiously, not breathing heavily at all – or at least not noticeably.

I looked at my phone’s clock.

“Seven minutes.”, I told him.

He considered the number. By itself it meant nothing, however, allied with another fact, it had potent meaning.

“You beat mummy.”, I said, with gentle approval. “Well done.”

“When my legs began to burn, then I began to run faster!”, he explained.

I found myself laughing. “You ran FASTER when your legs began to burn?!”.

“Yes.” He said, perhaps a little amused at himself.

“That, Fintan, is when most people would stop running.”

A minute later, Syahidah arrived. “Eight minutes.”, I told her.

Her eyes appraised Fintan. Her face still held a lingering surprise that he had beaten her.

“He ran faster when his legs began to burn.”, I told her.

“He is crazy! That is when people collapse.”

My seven year old son, Fintan, had trounced his athletic mum, in a race. Yet, it was not his body that had won, with its smaller, shorter legs and restricted pace, compared to hers. No. It was his WILL that had won. Fintan had pushed his body, to greater exertion, precisely when most people would have given up the race. When his legs began to complain of the effort, that was the moment when he demanded more of them. To my understanding, this is very significant. It shows what kind of character Fintan has. When the situation becomes more difficult, when his body complains of the effort, that is precisely when he will make his greatest effort. Fintan will not allow himself to be defeated by the mere limits of his body. His strength of will, allows him to overcome such limits, to push his body beyond what others might have thought possible for a seven year old to accomplish.

I am pleased to see this characteristic in Fintan. I believe it will enable him to do difficult things, to overcome challenges others would simply give up on, once they realize their innate difficulty. He is only seven, yet he is already a higher performing athlete than his mother, when he chooses to be. That is certainly unexpected, given what I know of Syahidah’s capabilities in such areas.

I am reminded of the day he went rock climbing, and the way he flung himself through the air, from handhold to handhold, seemingly unconcerned and unmindful of the fall beneath him. He fairly ran up the rock face, as if it were no challenge at all, overcoming it in a state of delight. It seems, very much, that Fintan not only does not shirk from physical challenges, but relishes them. He thinks it is fun, to push the body to its limits and do things that seem quite unreasonable. I wonder where this will take him? One thing is for sure: he definitely has the “Right Stuff.”

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:58 PM 


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