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, November 20, 2011

On being there.

For a child, there is no greater gift than the parent simply being there.

On Saturday morning, I put aside my own commitments, to be there for my youngest son, Tiarnan, five. He had an end of year school concert, at which he would be dancing twice. Now, to be there for him, I had to ask to be relieved from an unavoidable commitment of my own. It wasn’t easy – and there were consequences – but I felt that I had no alternative. My wife, Syahidah, was otherwise committed for an event involving Ainan and Fintan – so that left only me, to attend to Tiarnan. So, I went with him, despite all the pressures to do otherwise.

Though I arrived well in time, it wasn’t in time enough. The entire auditorium was already full, leaving only a temporary chair at the back, behind every other row of seating. I sat on it and waited for it to begin.

I have written of this kind of event before. It involves young children from two to six, dressed up in fine clothes, dancing to music, as an ensemble. I have seen this before. No longer am I surprised to see little kids dressed like adults on a night out for a ballroom dance. No longer am I culture shocked at a such a strange sight – though I was the first time I saw it. This time, I noted some new things. For instance, the very young kids, of two or three, barely respond to the music at all, with only one or two attempting to “dance”. As the kids get older, they become noticeably more coordinated and able to engage with the music. At Tiarnan’s age, it was noticeable that most were not particularly good with choreography. Tiarnan stood out in this respect. When he danced, he did so with rhythm, vigour and a distinct grasp of the choreography. He was clearly the most co-ordinated on stage. I felt acutely touched as I watched him dance. He had been placed at the back of the dancers, though why this should be so, I wasn’t sure, since he was by far the best dancer, there. Perhaps that is precisely why: his teacher didn’t want him to show the others up.

I was unsure whether he saw me, at the back, but I waved nevertheless. He didn’t respond. I really hoped he would see me out here, and know I was watching.

For the second dance, at the end, he was, again, the most distinguished dancer on stage – and that included all the six year olds, who had joined them, for the grand finale. What was most pronounced is that his moves were to an inner clock – there was a rhythm and fluidity about them, moving from one movement to the next, that all the other youngsters lacked. To me, this shows that something in him, related to motor skills, is more developed than is typical of his age, or indeed, of those who are one year older than him, since he outshone them all. Given his mother’s proclivity for dance, I am not surprised by this, however. She has always been an uncanny dancer.

For me, the best moment of the whole event was at the end, when Tiarnan looked out over the audience, his head uptilted to stare at the back of the hall. Then he waved, in my direction. He had seen me. On his face, there was a contented smile. His daddy had been there for him. I waved back and he echoed my wave again.

I remember my own childhood and how important it was for me, that my parents should be there, to witness particular achievements. In a way, such times were a means to show them what I could do. They were a communication from son, to parent – a way of letting them see a bit more about me. Thus, that they should be there, could not have been more important. I learnt that from my own childhood. So, I always try to be there for my children, whenever they are doing something of note. I know that, although they might not say it, my presence is very important to them. They would be sad, if I could not make it.

Personally, I lost out by being at my son’s concert. Something which was meant for me, to do, went ahead without me, done by another, because they would not and could not wait for me to join them in the afternoon – which I did. Yet, I weigh my personal loss against my son’s gain and know that I could not have chosen otherwise. A child would not understand the parent’s need to be elsewhere to do something. My son would have felt ignored, had I not been there.

I asked Tiarnan: “Did you see me in the audience?”

He nodded, silently.

“Did you like that Daddy was there?”

He nodded, silently, again, though this time with the hint of a smile.

That was good enough for me. I made the right choice.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:06 PM 


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