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 +

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A little old man.

Tiarnan is just five years old. Yet, at times, he seems like a little old man.

A couple of days ago, I was working, to a self-imposed deadline, on some project or other. It was night and my sons were waiting for me to put them to bed. The door to my “office” creaked open. In came my littlest boy: Tiarnan.

“We have waited SO long for you...”, he began, in an exasperated tone, his little face peering up at me with a certain degree of pique. Tiarnan, as you may know, is rather emotional and does “pique” rather well (and all other emotional states, for that matter). It is almost as if his emotions have been concentrated, in his small frame, by having such a small space to exist in. He is like one of those cunning little chillis, that look so small and unassuming but which have the capacity to burn through your mouth in an instant.

I looked down at him, not answering for the time being, my thoughts still on my project.

“Would you do that to your friend?”, he enquired, his eyebrows raised. “No!”, he answered, for me. “So don’t do it to us!”, he scolded at last.

His words seemed so out of place, on his diminutive tongue, supported by his modest, elfin frame. It was as if an old man had possessed him and given him the attitude and demeanour of a peeved 80 year old.

His words impressed me out of my chair. I rose, took his hand and led him to his room. Then, I read my sons a few stories and settled them down to sleep.

As I left them asleep, I couldn’t help but wonder at the social maturity of my youngest son. He clearly understood social norms of behaviour very well and knew how a person should normally conduct himself. The wonder of it was, how he had come to such an understanding, with so little time in the world, to do so. Was this an instinctual thing with him? Or was he able to derive social rules, quickly, on little information? Or was he just projecting himself into the world and judging the actions of others based on what he, himself, would do? There was no telling which it was. I knew only this: my littlest boy was not such a little boy inside his head. There is an understanding, in him, beyond his years, for many things, particularly about people and how they are or should be. It is strange to say it, but this premature wisdom gives him a great charm – for his words and observations seem so unaccountably out of place, that they draw attention to themselves. To hear something said by such a little person is, oddly, to give it great weight. We heed most, what we least expect to hear.

Tiarnan’s words did prompt me to reflect on my own actions. I hadn’t kept him waiting for long – perhaps fifteen minutes – which doesn’t seem long to me – but to him, it was far too long.

Maybe he is right. Perhaps I should attend to them, first, and set aside whatever else it is I am doing. In their world, brief times seem very long indeed.

Sorry Tiarnan. Next time, you won’t have to wait for Daddy.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:54 AM 


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