Dear Flint Hill Families,

Throughout the years, I’ve often reflected on my favorite days of the school year. This year, last Friday was by far my favorite day. Last Friday, we celebrated Grandparents and Special Friends Day. Every year, this event gives us an opportunity to bring our School family full circle as many of your own parents visit campus to see the School in action and connect with their peers. It is a day of smiles, hugs, open expressions of love, and moments of sheer joy seeing all that children are able to learn in school today.

This year, grandparents from all over the country and the world arrived, on a beautiful Friday morning, to join us for this exceptional gathering. Our headcount approached 400 grandparents and special friends! Some of the programming for this event included getting an update on the School and our three pillars — relationships, balance and innovation. There was a chance to hear some music and get a feel for the energy and the passion of our Middle School students. But let’s be honest; the purpose of this day is to see the unique bond shared by students and members of their extended families. This special sense of happiness and joy was clear to me when I saw them heading to the classrooms to take part in various activities or sitting together to read a book. As I walked about the building, I saw our visiting family members hovered around tables with their grandchildren. Others were sitting out in the hallways or on the floors going over projects. And others were walking together to get their pictures taken or visiting the School Store pop-up to purchase Flint Hill gear for both students and the adults alike.

Being a grandparent is an incredible passage of life, and until you reach that phase, it is hard to put into words. As a grandparent, you create a bond with your grandchildren that will be there forever. Some of it involves the special names I heard on Friday. Names like “Papa, Papi, Nana and Nona” were among them, as well as “Oma and Opa,” which are the same names our grandchildren call Emily and me. You realize that there is a unique language that develops within families that grandparents and grandchildren share. It was something to behold just seeing the way they reached out and touched each other, the way they held hands and how they put their hands on shoulders as they waited in lines, or the way grandchildren look up into the faces of their grandparents. You couldn’t help but notice their excitement when they introduced their grandparents to their friends, teachers or to anyone they could find. At the same time, you could also see the grandparents’ awe, pride and admiration for their grandchildren, whether they were in Junior Kindergarten or Eighth Grade.

Part of the beauty of being a grandparent is that to some degree, you still get to enjoy the best parts of parenting without feeling the pressure to make things happen or worrying about others judging your parenting skills. As a grandparent, you love your grandchildren for who they are and want to be there to support and guide them, knowing full well that if things start to get difficult or fatigue begins to set in, you can step away and defer to the parents.

Emily and I now have five grandchildren, and we fully understand the pleasure of it all. We have a 13-year-old granddaughter, an 8-year-old grandson, 6-year-old boy-girl twins and another granddaughter who was born less than a week ago! Every one of them is very special to us. They become part of your legacy, and your role as a grandparent continues to grow and expand with each addition.

This excitement doesn’t end on Grandparents Day. Last weekend, I received a phone call from a grandparent who I have known for many years. In fact, she and I worked together in Texas years ago. Her grandson had struggled here even with the help of the Learning Center, and it really had been a journey for him, but he ended up graduating from Flint Hill several years ago. This grandmother called with great excitement to share the news that he had graduated from college last Saturday! She was very proud of all that he has accomplished and will accomplish in the future. And she wanted me to know about his graduation so I could share the fact that all of the efforts put forth by our faculty and staff had paid off. He had gotten the skills and the traits he needed to go off and build the success that he had experienced in college, even when she had lovingly worried at times if it would all come together for him. The joy in her voice as we talked was so evident.

It is a challenging time to be a parent, and so often we get focused on the day-to-day routine and the struggle with time and schedules, but let’s always make time for those grandparents. Let’s make sure that if they can’t be here for this special day, that they get time on the phone, FaceTime, or future special moments with their grandchildren. Those bonds will be there forever, and even though the time may not be nearly as intense as it is with us as parents, the connections made will be with our children forever.

Enjoy this wonderful time of the year, because before we know it, we will be attending the closing ceremonies! If we can be helpful in any way, please do not hesitate to call on us. Have a great week and weekend ahead.

Best wishes to you!

John M. Thomas