Learning at Every Age

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

I often spend time in my notes reflecting on curriculum, our program, or school-related activities, however, this time I wanted to write about a special experience I had over the weekend. This past long weekend marked a true learning moment for me, or better put, a reminder of all that parenting involves, the absolute magic of a child’s mind and how young children are always, always “on!”

Emily and I spent the long weekend babysitting our three-year-old twin grandchildren,   Reed and Ella. They live right in the heart of Manhattan, on East 56th Street. During the three days that I was able to be a part of the “team,” I learned a lot. We learned about taking walks in a vibrant city like New York, and the ability to look out the windows and see the rooftops of some buildings or look right into the center of other apartment buildings. Apparently, there is a common practice that virtually no one closes their shades, so one could see the glittering lights like stars all scattered throughout the city.  I could even see a glimpse of the water in the distance with Roosevelt Island not that far away. But what impressed me the most was watching the twins in action.

We were reminded that there is no down time for little ones. From the moment they woke up to the minute they went down they were in constant motion either talking, moving or “teaching” us a great deal. We began our Saturday taking a long stroll to Central Park, walking through the zoo, and finding various playgrounds in which to play.  They love to run and climb, two very basic skills that they obviously practice without end and are quite good at. It was also good to see how well they get along with each other. They were constantly talking to each other or talking to us. It was as if a switch had been flipped and they were constantly in action.

For the walk to the park, we took their stroller. They now have it condensed to where one just sits and the other one stands on the platform in the back. At one point, we hit a busy intersection where there was a large puddle of water. As I made the mistake of saying, “I hate it when the water piles up like this!,” Reed immediately turned and — in a nice way — wagged his little index finger at me and said with a very stern face, “Opa, we do not ever say the word hate. It is a bad word.” I stood corrected and, fortunately, my apology was immediately accepted with a smile and an invitation for us to keep going. The list of such events could fill pages!

At one point over the weekend, we went to Barnes & Noble to look for floor puzzles. After picking a couple that we thought would be fun, we also decided to spoil them a bit by allowing each child to pick a toy. Ella got a Strawberry Shortcake doll and playset  andReed got a doctor’s travel bag filled with items. Later that afternoon, after playing with the new toys, Ella asked if she could play the doctor now. Reed wasn’t ready to give up his new toy, but Ella was persistent. She then said, “We need to share Reed! You can play with my toy.” But Reed wasn’t budging, and while I was on the floor trying to play with each of them, I really enjoyed watching this dynamic and trying to figure out how the debate was going to end. At one moment, Ella looked me right in the eye, and after asking Reed again to share his toys, in a very calm voice she turned to Reed and said, “Reed, sharing is caring! You know you should share!” She then look back at me. It was a nice move, I thought. Manipulative, strategic and well-played. Reed didn’t budge at that moment, but as he continued playing and after saying the word “no,” he finally gave in, saying, “Yes, in a few minutes I will let you be a doctor.”

I have always heard about life in the big city, crossing the streets, shops and restaurants everywhere, and the constant opportunities to engage with other people or just keep moving. Even in their building, I saw the manners that these little youngsters are developing. They live in one of the old, grand apartment houses, complete with a doorman in uniform who greeted us as we came and left. The first time we hit that doorway, however, the kids both — almost in unison — called out, “Hi Bill! This is our Oma and Opa.” The doorman shook their hands and then shook ours. It was clear that he knew who they were, and he could have not been kinder and more appropriate, making sure that the building was safe as he welcomed us into their “building family.”

At night when the kids went down, they went down hard to sleep, and Oma and Opa were not far behind. But as I drove back from the busy weekend to prepare for this week, several key points resonated with me:

  • Young kids at all ages soak in knowledge like sponges. They are full of questions and are constantly asking and remembering the lessons that we teach, whether or not they are intended. It’s amazing how much they really notice.
  • Innocence still exists in this crazy world. Isn’t that wonderful? Cherish it when you see it and marvel at its purity. Enjoy your children’s sense of joy, excitement and the magic of learning something for the first time.
  • It is never too late to learn. I learned a lot about city life. I learned about living in an apartment. I learned about the strategy of how to do big floor puzzles. I learned that being a “horse” with a grandchild on your back never gets old. I learned how you can emotionally melt when out of the blue, they take your hand or suddenly curl up under you arm on the sofa and just say “I love you.” I also learned that “sharing is caring” and never to use the word “hate” again.
  • Enjoy your children at all times, not matter how old they are. Remember, they will never be at this moment in time again. It sounds trite to say, “enjoy the journey,” but we need to do it. It is all going way too fast!  It seems like not long ago, we were delicately holding the twins in our arms and marveling at their birth.  But now, I was having conversations and sharing wonderful experiences with these amazing toddlers!

 

Enjoy the week! Try to enjoy the impending snow storm! Regardless of what happens, that excitement seems to be building up for both children and adults. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Best wishes to you!
Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster