Between Đán and Me

Last Saturday night, I couldn’t sleep thinking about my relationship with my second son Đán. I pulled out my phone and watched clips of him when he was in kindergarten. He sang Spanish songs beautifully, tickled Xuân to make him laugh, and learned to ice skate for the first time. I laughed and almost cried. Nostalgia rushed over me. I missed the cheerful, joyful, playful Đán.

As a second child, he has grown up way too fast and changed drastically in the last five years. He becomes taciturn, impatient, and unhappy. He revolves his world around computers and video games. He’s no longer interested in any outdoor activities even though he is so darn good at snowboarding, rollerblading, and hockey skating. He was also good at playing the piano. He doesn’t even want to hang out with his dad and brothers. He is drifting away from us to spend more time on his digital device.

I tried to help him, but I failed. He was miserable when he was not allowed on his PC. His rage and his behavior were increasingly getting worse. As a parent, I am conflicted. I don’t feel good forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do, but if I didn’t make him go to the skatepark or to the mountain resorts, he would have dropped every activity. At the same time, I want him to have his freedom. I want him to be more in control of his life.

I thought back to when I was his age. My mother didn’t restrict me from doing anything and I turned out fine. Maybe I should do the same with my kids. I had been backing off and letting them do whatever they wanted even if they played video games until midnight.