[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Dear Flint Hill School Families,

Fall truly seems to be upon us. This week should be very exciting, as we approach Homecoming Weekend and the end of the first quarter of the school year.

I hope everyone was able to enjoy the recent three-day weekend. My wife Emily and I traveled to our family home on the Eastern Shore, which we have not been able to visit for nearly six weeks. There was plenty of work to do, and, in fact, I spent most of Sunday raking up pine needles that had accumulated on our driveway and in the drainage ditch that fronts our property. As I worked hard raking and carrying those needles to the woods, a neighbor walked by and commented on how this was an endless job at this time of the year. I totally agreed. But it also made me think about how many of our tasks in life are “endless” tasks. There will always be more to do, yet we need to do what we can when we can. We need to keep up with the tasks as we go along.

As hard as the work was and as clean as it looked when I finished, I know it all too well that when I get back in a few weeks, the driveway and the ditch will be coated with needles again, and I will have more work to do. But if I had not done what I did last weekend, that work would be much harder to do, because the volume of needles would be that much deeper. What I did last weekend will make the future work easier and manageable, but the work will still be there.

To be honest, parenting is like raking those needles. There are always issues to confront: bedtimes, chores, behavior at the dinner table, language, how we treat our siblings, the list can go on and on when our children are young. And as the kids get older, the challenges shift to potential conflicts around curfews, driving, behavior with friends, where they go and who they are with, etc. But if we do our job well early on, it will help ease some of the tension as they become adolescents. There will still be those moments of conflict, but we will have made some of the issues less deep and intense, and we will have more confidence in our role as parents. They may never admit that they are listening to us, but they will come to accept our expectations and limits far better if we have been working on it all along. They may still argue a bit but likely not as much as they would have if limits come on suddenly. From early on, our children need to learn that “no” can be a complete sentence; that we can be caring and firm all at the same time. And let’s never forget that the “yardwork” of parenting is never-ending.

As an example, we were on the phone just recently listening as one of our older boys sought our advice and insight on a tough, personal issue. He is in his 40s, has his own family and children, but he was comfortable pulling us back into our parental roles. We felt honored that he was able to be so open and honest with us while wanting to hear our thoughts and reactions. We listened and shared our insights, while fully appreciating and respecting the fact that he is an adult all on his own and is fully capable of making decisions that are right for him and his family. But it was also clear to us that our work as parents is endless and that we want to continue to be available to him and our entire family throughout life.

So as we move into autumn, please take the time to do your “yardwork” at home with your children. Don’t put it off. It will only build up, get deeper and become more difficult. Years from now, when conflicts arise, you will find them to be less overwhelming. It will be manageable — just like my work with the pine needles. If you do this, you will be far more satisfied with the job you have done as a parent, and, in the long run, your children will appreciate and value the time, interest and ongoing support you give them. They do notice it, and they feel that unconditional love that comes with setting limits and high expectations.

Enjoy Homecoming, and enjoy getting that “yardwork” done! It will all make for an exciting fall season ahead.

Best wishes to you!


John M. Thomas