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, April 08, 2011

An unlikely acrobat.

Fintan is a burly boy. He has about him a sense of physical power that relatively few children have.

Though it is early to say, he promises to grow into quite a strapping and well proportioned young man.

Yet, there is also something uncanny about him in that he can do what does not seem likely given his heft.

About three or four weeks ago, Tiarnan, five, was showing off his dance moves. He had been watching a break dance drama and took it upon himself to give his impression of break dancing. He had done so several times that day, for his mother: even taking to trying special moves that involved going to the ground, hands first, rather than feet first. He observed of his work: “I can do it all, but not the spinning on the head.” He was not foolish enough to try that, from mere observation of a video, alone.

Tiarnan’s dancing was exuberant, energetic and very much informed by his excitement at doing so. He wanted us all to see him do it. He showed his mother first, then later on, me, then, finally he did so for Fintan, 7.

“Look Fintan!”, he began, then did his best “break dancing”.

Fintan watched carefully, for a while, then something interesting began to happen: little twitches occurred across his body as if he were considering various movements.

“Come on, Fintan!”, said his mother, Syahidah, who had been watching. “You try it!”

Fintan was silent. He twitched some more. He appeared to be mustering the courage not to do something, but to overcome a little shyness.

Suddenly, Fintan, my stockiest son, flung himself through the air and did a cartwheel on his hands, then leapt up off the floor, with a spring of his arms, spun around an invisible axis in the air and landed on the sofa, his whole body stretched out, with his right arm under his head, in a triangle of support. The whole thing was of one perfect fluid move, of such unlikely physical prowess, that it looked like something straight out of a Kung Fu movie.

Fintan was most cool about it and looked up at Tiarnan, somewhat amusedly.

Tiarnan looked utterly shocked.

After a moment or two, Tiarnan recovered himself enough to say: “It is not that I can’t do that...”.His head shook a little as if the mere thought of something not being possible for Tiarnan was itself impossible. “Oh no. It is just that I want to do this!”

Then he launched off into more of his break dancing moves, his arms and legs assailing the air from an infinitude of angles with energy and speed. It was clear he wanted to show himself at least as adept as his elder brother.

Fintan lay in repose throughout perhaps aware that his masterful move could not be outshone, no matter what Tiarnan tried to do. He had “won” this seeming competition, with the simplest, sleekest, briefest display of physical ability.

This incident does make me wonder at what else Fintan could do, were he exposed to the right opportunities. He has not, for instance, studied gymnastics – yet, his move was straight out of a gymnast’s gift. It seems I shall have to start looking for opportunities for Fintan to explore his evident athletic gifts. Should any readers live in Kuala Lumpur, like us, please make suggestions of classes and experiences below. Thanks.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:10 PM 


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