One Step at a Time

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

First and foremost, thank you for your kind understanding and patience during the past few days. We have truly experienced a historic event. I hope that everyone in our School family has survived the massive snowfall all in good health and good humor. Like you, we want to get our lives back to normal as soon as possible, but it remains pretty messy out there and your continued support is deeply appreciated as we all work to make that happen.

Have you ever had that conversation with someone that starts with, “Where were you when…?” I believe the Blizzard of 2016 (or “Snowzilla,” as I now see it is being called) will join the ranks of historic events that will forever be etched in our memories. Even as the storm approached, people who lived in this area for years were commenting on the Blizzard of 1996…where they were, what they did, etc. Those memories were flooding back 20 years later!

And this one was something to behold at times. If you are like me, you may have stood at a window, transfixed by the rapid accumulation of snow and the wind, seeing something that almost seemed beautiful to watch while also thinking, “When will this ever end?” I even entered the weekend with a strategy in mind for how to deal with the impending snow. I would shovel the driveway and front walks every few hours so there wouldn’t be too much at any one time. It was a great plan! I hit the pavement twice on Friday night, proud to be keeping on top of it and of the discipline I was showing, which I would need to work through Saturday. Of course, by Saturday morning I realized that all the work I had done Friday night was gone, and any hope of keeping up was an unrealistic expectation. The only shoveling I would have any hope of doing in the midst of the storm was a small area for the dogs to use. Bottom line, I stayed in all day Saturday but frequently went to the windows to marvel at the sight of it all. Would you believe that from our back walkway, the Miller House and the Hazel Academic Building on the East Campus were absolutely invisible in the whiteout conditions of blowing snow?

Once I was able to finally get out on Sunday, the hours of shoveling gave me plenty of time to reflect on things. Some thoughts were as simple as the realization that life is in constant motion. You may think you know what the next day or week holds for you, but it can change in a moment. And there are still real adventures to be had in life today. From bearing witness to such a weather event, and crafting a plan to “dig out,” to the sheer joy of children climbing huge snow mountains, sledding, skiing in their neighborhoods, or just watching the backyard fill up with snow. There were memories to be had everywhere.

I found myself thinking about how to find some lessons on parenting and/or school from all of this. This is a constant practice of mine, an outcome of more than 40 years of teaching. While the ideas were reflective of the experiences we all may have had over the past few days, they can translate to our roles working with our wonderful Huskies, at every age.

  1. It just takes one step at a time. When I stepped outside on that beautifully clear and magnificent Sunday morning, the task before me looked absolutely overwhelming. How could I move that much snow? Where would I even start? But once I came up with a plan and got to work, I realized that each shovel full of snow led to the next and each one made a difference. And eventually, the task was done. It may not have been perfect but it was done as well as it could be and I felt a sense of pride for what I had accomplished! The same holds true for parenting. It may seem overwhelming at times, but it is the sheer act of dealing with each question, each life lesson, each crisis, each phase of life, one after the other, that ultimately makes the difference. And before you know it (and much too soon for many of us), the children have grown up and you realize that that phase of parenting is done. You can step back and take pride in what you have helped accomplish as your children begin to spread their wings.
  2. Relationships matter. Would you be surprised to know that that I probably spoke to more neighbors during the past few days then I have in years? From people taking their children and pets outdoors to surveying the aftermath of the storm, everyone wanted to stop to chat. Neighbors working on their own driveways would take a break and gather in the roadway to share stories and experiences based on this common event we were experiencing. One couple had just retired and relocated here from sunny California; they had never been around snow before, but they were taking this in stride. Another neighbor had a snow blower, and after his driveway was clear, he was going up and down the street trying to help others. He cleared about a third of my driveway, which saved me hours. Even our Division Directors have had faculty sharing their experiences with each other, and it has been fun to hear the stories and see some pictures. The storm brought people together and brought out the best in people. The same holds true for parenting. We don’t have to do it alone. There are always people there to help us with an open ear, advice or the wisdom that comes from their own experiences with their children. We should never hesitate to accept their support and guidance whenever needed nor forget that they are there, even if we don’t always see them. Seeking such support when necessary will make you feel better and they will feel better for helping as well.
  3. Keep life in perspective. The piles of snow are high, but they are not as high as the piles I saw on a trip to Boston last February — at least not yet. And on Monday, as I worked to finish shoveling, the temperatures reached the high 30s and it suddenly felt warm! This entire event has been a lot for everyone and it has thrown all of our lives a curve but, just like anything else, it too shall pass. We will have plenty to share when we see each other again so let’s not let the snow upset us too much. Remember, the temperatures were in the 70s over the holidays, so I guess this is a bit of payback. In parenting, it is all about perspective. We should never let unrealistic expectations or fear of failure cloud our thinking. We need to help our children grow and develop a sense of character, confidence, persistence, determination, creativity, and grit. We learned years ago that those traits only come from facing challenges, overcoming disappointments and frustrations, and ultimately succeeding, with goals and dreams held in the right perspective. Like us, our children will earn their happiness and they will be able to keep it all in perspective.

Hang in there. We look forward to getting everyone back in as soon as the campuses are fully cleared and we feel the roads, etc. are safe. And when we do get back, please join me, whenever you see a member of facilities team on campus, in thanking them for the selfless work they did to get the campuses clean, safe, and ready for school to get underway again. Please never forget that they have their own families and homes to take care of, but they were amazing in balancing all of that and still putting an incredible amount of work in here, at all hours of the day and night, to get us ready to open again.

Take care and I hope to see everyone soon!!!

Best wishes,

John