December 11, 2019
Dear Flint Hill School Families,
Last weekend, while I was doing some yard work and running family errands, I found that my mind was racing. I was engaged in all my activities, but my thoughts were going everywhere. Has that ever happened to you? The “flood gates” were open, and I was thinking about everything from things happening at School and some family situations with grandkids to travel plans for the holidays. I don’t know whether it was the fatigue of coming to the end of this semester or what, but so many irrelevant thoughts were slowing my ability to think creatively and problem solve.
While I was in the front yard, a breeze blew by, and suddenly, a wave of the last remaining leaves from a tree in our yard came pouring down. Stubbornly, that tree just seems to hold on to its leaves, until the very end of the season, and at that moment, it just let go! This experience made me stop and reflect that it was exactly what I needed to do — I just needed to let some things go. Those minor, petty things that were taking up space in my mind; I just had to let them go. I had to clear out my head, take some things off my plate, and realize that while I would need to deal with the essentials, the mental clutter had to go.
Over the Thanksgiving Break, our Lower School teachers went through a purging of their classrooms, to get ready for the renovations that will happen in the Hazel Academic Building in the spring. They had to go out of their comfort zones and look into every cabinet and bookshelf to find things to donate, take home or throw away. They had to think about what we need and what we don’t and then let some things go. They were incredible in all that they accomplished, with an impressive growth mindset and contagious energy.
So, as I stood in my yard, watching those leaves fall, realizing that the tree had to “let go” so it could have the ability to green up again in the spring, I realized I had to do the same. I thought of our teachers and the courage that they demonstrated. I decided then and there that it was time to free up some of my emotional energy, my thought process, and get things done rather than worrying so much.
I share this with you as a reminder that we can all go through this process periodically. In our daily rush, so often things pile up on our emotional windshield. And I know if we experience this, our kids must experience it as well. As parents, we need to both look out for ourselves and model good coping behaviors as we deal with everything that is swirling around us at times. At all ages, there are some things we all need to let go of. For our children, we can help move distractions off of their plates and help them focus on what’s really important. Students and parents alike can feel the pressure of social and emotional concerns, worries about friends or colleges, grades, growing too fast or growing too slow. We need to help our children get to the point where they feel comfortable with themselves and with all the exciting things they have before them. And with the holidays coming up, now is an excellent time to have a clear head and an emotional openness to fully being able to appreciate opportunities to be with loved ones and get some much-needed rest.
And if you want a theme song to go along with this “mental housekeeping” exercise, here is a link to the song, “Let It Go” from Disney’s first “Frozen” movie. Those of you with younger children know that this song can get stuck in your head, so proceed with caution! My grandkids have sung that song to me so many times over the years, I can’t let it go! But I can tell you that I smile every time I hear it. And I am always reminded of what we need to do.
Have a great rest of this week and the weekend ahead! Let’s start to get ready for a joyous holiday season.
Best wishes to you!
John M. Thomas
About the Headmaster
Since 2005, John Thomas has served as Flint Hill’s Headmaster. He is a graduate of the McDonogh School in Baltimore, Maryland, and holds degrees from Randolph Macon College and Towson University, with a certificate in school psychology from the State of Maryland. He is the co-author of “Psychodiagnostic Evaluation of Children: A Casebook Approach,” and has articles published in the book “Parenting Teens: Collected Essays by Independent School Educators,” published by the Secondary School Admission Test Board. John has served on the Board of Trustees for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) and the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW) and is a current Board member for Emerging Scholars. He and his wife Emily, a former teacher, have three grown sons and five very energetic grandchildren.