Dear Flint Hill School Families,

The recent exceptional weekend weather provided me with an opportunity to finally take part in my bi-annual event at home that I refer to as Mulching for Emily. My wife, Emily, is a tremendous gardener and over years of working together outside, she has taught me what it takes to grow plants. The mulching experience is a gift that I give back to Emily and to our home. The key process focuses on getting the plants ready to survive the winter so they can flourish in the spring. It also gives me a physical activity that I actually love to do. This “grunt work” has the side benefit in that it allows me time alone to think and, for many years, I have reflected on parenting as I mulch.

On Saturday, I started with some rapid-fire prep work before the mulching process. After raking leaves, I cut the grass and trimmed the plants in preparation for the winter. I then left to pick up the mulch, and when I returned home and saw the steam rising from it, it was clear that the mulch was going to provide an amazingly warm “bed” for our plants. I then considered the process of transferring the mulch to the gardens, and the relationship between the mulch and the plants. The plants certainly have their role to play in the process — they will be exposed to the elements no matter what the winter may bring, and they must develop grit, resiliency and strength! And over the course of the next few months, the mulch will break apart and become part of the soil that surrounds them. It is the plant that has to remain strong. This process works well. It’s easy to worry about whether certain plants will survive, but most of them do and do well. In fact, we still have plants in our backyard that we brought with us from Texas years ago. I never thought they would make it in this cold weather, but they have, and with this mulch they are thriving, flourishing and getting the power they need to grow and develop.

So what does all of this have to do with parenting? It relates to our responsibility to provide the support our children need. We hug them, we hold on to them, and we give them the foundation they are going to need to grow. Like the mulch, we support their “roots,” but ultimately, they must learn to survive on their own and must be prepared for whatever comes their way. Like the mulch, we can’t smother for protection. Instead, we must work with them so they learn to withstand the elements and must make sure they are developing the strength and resilience they need now so they will continue to grow strong and stronger.

In today’s world, the challenges can be personal, immediate, far reaching and worrisome. But we have to raise our youngsters to persevere, to keep things in perspective, to use their great intellect, to collaborate and communicate, and to approach their lives ethically. Our four core values of honesty, respect, responsibility and compassion have served us well for 25 years, and there is no question that we are learning and growing strong as families and as a School. We are raising children who are confident and competent. Please join me in working to make certain that we are providing the right “mulch” for our kids. We must ensure that the experiences we give them are providing them the opportunity to grow. All of our efforts will become part of their soil someday and the foundation we have provided will allow their roots to become so strong that they can withstand anything.

Being a parent is the most challenging thing we will ever do in our lives, but we are not doing it alone. So please join me in continuing to cheer on our great children in all of their activities and get ready for a most joyous holiday season ahead.

Best wishes to you!  Enjoy this very special time of year…and the weather!

John M. Thomas