Dear Flint Hill School Families,

During the school year, I spend an enormous amount of time working closely with you and your children. Summertime, however, is the season that firmly reminds me of the joys and struggles of parenthood. Each summer, for over a decade, my wife, Emily, and I play host to what we call “Camp Oma and Opa.” We have set up a system in which our grandchildren, once they reach the age of three, get to come to Oakton, for a period of time, to give us special one-on-one time with them.

We have four grandchildren who are old enough to take part in this annual adventure: a set of 6-year-old twins from New York,  a 13-year-old (going on 25), and an 8-year-old from California. This year was going to be a special time not only for us but for them as cousins to get together. This summer, our “camp” extended to 10 days and became quite an adventure.

We celebrated “pretend birthdays” for each of the kids when they got to pick the breakfast and dinner plans for the day. We also took them all shopping to pick out birthday presents, with gifts ranging from makeup and dresses (an adventure in and of itself after raising three boys), to a trip to Build-a-Bear, to a simple cone of chocolate-covered strawberries for our six-year-old grandson. For activities, we had cooking lessons, horseback riding and the opportunity to learn how to groom a horse. Our oldest grandchild attended the Flint Hill Volleyball Camp and another attended a week of Headfirst STEM Camp. We also went to Burke Lake, had farm visits, and had plenty of time on our great playgrounds here at School. There were movie nights and an inevitable visit to Chuck E. Cheese. All of it was fun but absolutely exhausting. We were constantly reminded of how much it takes to be a parent. In fact, I remember one morning — after already reading books, riding bikes and scooters, and playing ball and hide and seek for a while in the backyard — I asked Emily what time it was. It was only 9:30 a.m.! The look on both of our faces said it was going to be a long day.

This summer served as a reminder of all that you are going through on a daily basis as parents.  We were able to hand back our grandchildren after 10 days and collapsed for a sound night of sleep. But for you, the adventure of being a parent is ongoing. A few key things hit me while we tried to focus on our time with our grandchildren. I hope they will be helpful for you all as the school year gets underway:

Cherish this time.
We know that raising children is not easy. There are a million things that ask for our time, from work to our children and everything else that life brings. But time is fleeting! Today is the only August 15, 2018, we will ever have. It is critically important that we make the most of it, and that each day, we make certain our children and our grandchildren know that they have our unconditional love. When they want to cuddle, let them cuddle. When they want to be a little bit spontaneous or loud sometimes, we just have to enjoy that moment. We need to make certain to cherish that time and to see the humor in all that they will bring.

Stay focused.
If anything, parenting requires attention. Sadly, more than once I was asked, “Did you hear me, Opa?” There were moments when one of my grandchildren had obviously said something to me and my mind had drifted away to something else. We need to make sure that our children know we are right there and present whenever we are with them.

Set some ground rules
Believe it or not, kids love limits, but they won’t tell you that. Having limits actually gives them security and a sense of safety. And whatever the ground rules are in your family, you have to enforce them. No phone or devices at the table (more of that in a future letter), be on time for breakfast, use good manners at dinner, play nice, watch your language, be kind — the list can go and on. But, all of it helps everyone stay focused and enjoy their time together.

Just as these tips helped us enjoy and survive our summer adventure, they are relevant here at Flint Hill as this year gets underway. Each day is really special, so WE have to make it the very best it can be. It is our job to do our part. Remember, we are Huskies, and we are a team. Please do whatever you need to do to engage and get involved, as our experiences together make a tremendous difference in the lives of each child and member of our great School community. Please read this newsletter each week and check our calendars. Be aware of what is coming up, the times and the locations. Know what your children need to know to start school — what forms you need to turn in, etc. It is all critically important to making this a very successful school year.

This 2018-2019 school year is going to be one of high energy and great excitement. The level of momentum that has always been a part of Flint Hill is going to be on full display throughout the school year. Let’s all do our part to ensure that this is the best school year yet!

I look forward to working closely with you. Please don’t hesitate to ask if we can help.

Best wishes to you!


John M. Thomas