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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, September 29, 2012

One of my earliest memories.


My earliest memories are quite surprising in a way. It is commonly held that people don’t have memories before the age of three or so – but I don’t believe that. My experience and that of my children, suggest that much earlier memories are possible, for some people.

One of my earliest memories places me in a baby’s cot. I don’t know how old I was exactly, but I can deduce from the limitations on my movement that it was very early – certainly in the first few months of life. I remember lying down staring up into the air above my cot – and waiting, in expectation. I was waiting for the dust motes in the air, to appear again. I knew that if a shaft of light crossed above my cot, in just the right way, then little tiny things would become visible in the air. Of course, I didn’t know what they were – but I could see them, at such times. Whenever I saw them, I would reach up to them, to try to catch them, between my finger and thumb.

Looking back, now, on this early memory, I am struck by the coordination I displayed: I really was able to control my hand and target these dust motes, with the pincer movement of my finger and thumb. I am also struck by something else. I recall, very clearly, thinking that I knew when the light would return (the next day, at the worst) and the dust motes would be visible again. I had an understanding of the passage of time, and knew something of the cyclical nature of the pattern of light. I also recall having memories, then, of earlier times on which I had seen the dust motes. So, I had a definite “memory line” into the past, even in my first few months – and I had conscious access to it.

There is something else clear about this memory. I was alone, in that cot, in that room, for what seemed like long periods, for me. I didn’t cry or complain – or cannot recall doing so, whilst I waited for the dust motes, so I assume that my parents thought me content and left me to myself, in those periods. The texture of my thoughts, then, is still clear to me now. I recall being very alert indeed, studying the tiniest nuance in my environment. I believe I was looking for changes – and the only things changing were the pattern of light and the dust motes – other than that, the room was static. My thoughts don’t seem childish in recall. They seem very focussed and attentive – and, what is more, analytical. I was analyzing my environment and trying to discover ways it could be interacted with and manipulated – yet all I was moving, was my hands.

So, on that early occasion, I was already conscious of my past, conscious of the passage of time and the cyclical nature of day and night, able to reflect on my memories and compare them with the present, able to coordinate my hands, precisely – and able to analyze my environment. I was also aware of my self, as a being, in that situation, reflecting on my world. This is not how we are told to see little children. Yet, that is how I remember my thoughts at the time.

I have other early memories, too – but I shall think carefully before describing them, here. I thought it best to put this one on record, in case I never get around to recording my early memories, just to leave an account of how I was thinking at this early stage.

I wonder: what you are your early memories? Please leave tales of your early thoughts and feelings, below.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:43 PM 

2 Comments:

OpenID safireau said...

Well, I don't remember as far back as you do, but this definitely happened quite a bit earlier than the age of three (maybe 1ish?). I know this since when I was three I was translating signs for my mother (her native language isn't English).

I remember sitting on the floor pondering the difference between the words 'you' and 'I'. You see, when you learn almost any other word, the word spoken by the speaker and that of the 'speakee' is the same. For example the word 'toy'. If the original speaker is talking about this toy, when he is addressing the person he is speaking to, he uses the word 'toy'. Such as "This toy is really fun". If the other person were to respond by referencing the same object, the word is still 'toy'. Such as "That toy is boring".

Yet, the words 'you' and 'I' are dependent upon who is speaking and who is being spoken to. If my father were to say 'What are you doing?', rather than responding 'You is sitting down', I would have to respond 'I am sitting down'. Otherwise, in response to 'You is sitting down', my father might respond. "No, I am standing up. What are YOU doing?" Now this is second nature to us, but to a first time learner of language, one would wonder where on earth did 'I' come into the picture? We only spoke about 'you'. Proper names don't have this problem so why bother with the words 'you' and 'I' at all? (I didn't think about the case when you don't know the other person's name)

So there I sat, on the floor, thinking about the confusion that other kids/babies must have when trying to understand this difference. I also wondered about if I were a parent, how would I go about teaching my child this concept.Then I thought about the nature and meaning of these words....but I won't go into that much detail about that.

And that's one of my earliest memories.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Safireau for your early memory. I think this is a wonderful account of grammatical reasoning. To me, the story indicates that you were a gifted child because of the nature of your thoughts - for instance, wondering at your parents' perspective on the problem of teaching such a thing. These are complex thoughts for a 1 year old child. Thank you.

10:35 AM  

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