Letter to My Sons #14

My dearest sons,

Seeing you cried on the other line broke my heart. I am sorry that you got dragged into my problem. I promise you that I will never leave you. You are a part of me and no one can ever take you away from me. I will not let that happen.

The pandemic had hit hard on all of us. I might have failed to live up to my responsibilities. I might have failed to meet expectations. I might have failed to show my support. I might have failed to nurture my relationships. Nevertheless, I still have my dignity. I can work on my failures, but I do not take insults.

I want you to know that you do not deserve any insults. Do not let anyone put you down—not even me. I am grateful that you understand my love for you. No matter what goes on and no matter what happens, just always remember I will be there for you.

Love,

Daddy

Letter to My Sons #13

My Dearest Sons,

The last letter I wrote to you was four months ago. Because of the coronavirus crisis, we have been together all the time at home; therefore, I haven’t thought of writing down anything. I just want to let you know that we appreciate your help and cooperation during this difficult time. I understand it is not easy being stuck at home all day long while we also have to work. Even though we’re in the same space, your mom and I have less time to devote to you. I had always liked to take you to go places, but we can’t do that anymore at this time.

Vương: Thank you for keeping us entertained. I love waking up in the morning to see a beautiful smile on your face. I love it when you hold my hand and lead me to somewhere you wanted me to go. I love seeing you joining your big brothers playing Nerf guns or dancing to Vietnamese pop music videos. I love hearing talk even though I can’t make out what you say yet. I love seeing you happy and grow everyday.

Xuân: Although you’re going through that whiny stage, I love how expressive you are at everything and you do not take no for an answer. At mealtimes, you kept questioning us why your cousin (around your age) can watch iPad, but you can’t. I wanted you to focus on your food not your screen, but you argued that you can do both. When mommy caught you eating a pack of Pocky sticks, she asked you if you asked. You said, “Yes, I asked myself.” Your communication skills got yourself out of trouble time and time again.

Đán: I know being trapped at home is hard for you. You can’t go ice skating or fencing to release your energy. At least, you can still bike for a bit. I can’t wait for this coronavirus crisis to be over so we can go out and do things again. Hanging in there kiddo. I love reading your journal and drawings. I wish you would do more. Thank you for making us delicious sunny-side-up eggs for breakfasts. A bit of more patience, attention, and care, you can do anything you want to do.

Đạo: Your mom and I have been a bit hard on you because you’re the oldest. You have the responsibility as a big brother to love and care for your younger brothers. You are smart and they look up to you, especially Đán. You’re more than his brother. You’re his best friend. He always wanted to please you. Don’t take advantage of his fondness for you. Be kind and gentle to Xuân. He’s also your baby brother. Then again, you are still a kid and it is a bit unfair for you. I have thought about it and I am trying not to be too hard on you. We love you and we wanted you to be more compassionate, especially to your brothers. I am sure you will be when you figure it out for yourself.

Let’s all stick together during the time of a crisis. We will weather this pandemic and get back to normal life again. Nevertheless, I am still glad that we have all the time in the world to be close as a family. I feel very fortunate to have all of you by my side and in my life.

Love,

Daddy

Letter to My Sons #12

Dear sons,

Vương: I hope you get well soon. I missed seeing your smiles. I missed watching you running around and jumping on the coach. It is heartbreaking to see you inactive and not wanting mommy’s milk. It is so not like you. Sorry, if I indeed passed my germs onto you. I feel terrible and I love you.

Xuân: You’re amazing fast. You picked up Vietnamese tunes and sang along just like that. You are so competitive trying to catch up with your older brothers. You can make them mad simply using words you’ve learned. I love introducing you to new words because you remember them so quick. You apply them as soon as you can. I can’t wait to teach you to read. Please be patience with me. I still need to work with your brother Đán. Once he is ready to read on his own, I’ll focus on you.

Đán: We finished Janet Tashjian’s My Life as a Meme. To be honest, I have no clue what the book is about, but I am glad that we read through 232 pages together. Although you don’t like reading, you did it to please me. I appreciate your effort and I am happy to see your reading has improved tremendously. I hope that your charming personality doesn’t become inferior. Your mom and I worried that you have felt inferior to Đạo, your cousin, and your friends. You should not have to feel inferior and should not have to please anyone. You can be nice to them, but you don’t need to please them. You’re a sweet boy, but don’t let people take advantage of your sweetness.

Đạo: We haven’t forgotten about you. We understand how you feel being the oldest kid in the family. You feel like we don’t care about you and that we’ve always sided with the little ones. They are younger than you; therefore, we rely on you to help us out. Xuân can get on your nerves, but he is still a baby. He argues quite well for a three-year-old because of you. He learns the most from his older brothers. Didn’t I tell you if you treat him well he would follow you? When you act nice to him, he wanted to sit next to you and play with you. I know you are very smart and I also know when you say things you didn’t mean from your heart.

Love,

Daddy

Letter to My Sons #11

Dear sons,

The other day, Đạo pleaded, “I don’t want you guys to get a divorce.” The room fell silent and he went on, “Please don’t get a divorce.” I forget what we were talking about that led up to that topic, but I remember the vibe. I was touched that my ten-year-old son wanted his mom and dad to stay together.

In a coincidence, your mom and I were going through a few issues a few days before, but we made up. I did not know how to respond to Đạo’s comment other than telling him the truth. I made a promise to myself that I would never divorce your mom. I am willing to do anything to stay together. Though I cannot hold your mother back if she wants to leave me. I hope that we will never have to come to that path because it will have a tremendous effect on all four of you. You guys are what your mom and I have together. You are our joy, our life, and our connection.

God forbid that divorce will never come up, but if it will, you will be our priority. We will do our best to make things work for you. Not having a father around had a profound impact on my life. I do not want that to happen to you. I promise you that I will be there for you as long as you need me.

I can’t speak for your mom, but I have a sense that she will do all that she can to keep us as a family. We are not perfect, but we will work on our flaws because we love our family. We will be there for each other through thick and thin. As long as we don’t give up on each other. We will make it.

When your mom and I got married, we chose a song titled “Bài ca hạnh ngộ” by Lê Uyên Phương that we loved. Whenever I feel down or doubt about our marriage, I remember this particular line from the song: “Rồi mai đây đi trên đường đời / Đừng buông tay âm thầm tìm về cô đơn.” (Later, on our journey through life / Don’t let go of my hand to seek your quiet solitude).

Love,
Daddy

Letter to My Sons #10

Dear sons,

In this tenth letter, I would like to address being uncomfortable—something you will face again and again in your life. If you ever feel uncomfortable, you can refer to this letter and you can always talk to us. I will share my own experience so that you know you won’t be alone.

As a husband and a father, I strive to give us a comfortable life, but I thrive under uncomfortable conditions. Paradox, isn’t it? Whether in my professional career or in my personal life, I don’t let myself become comfortable. If I become comfortable with my job, I would need a new challenge. If I become comfortable with my personal life, I would get bored—your mom always pushes my comfort level and I love her for it.

For me, being comfortable is easy. As long as I keep my thoughts and feelings to myself, I can make everything seems comfortable. Deep down, however, I am just avoiding uncomfortable feelings and I ended up making myself miserable. As a result, I often use my blog to express my uncomfortable feelings. I had made many people feel uncomfortable in both professional and personal settings. I felt bad and extremely uncomfortable, but I have learned that being uncomfortable made me face the truth. I can no longer hide my uncomfortable feelings. I had to deal with it head on and being uncomfortable helped move our relationships from negative to positive.

Your mom and I had many uncomfortable conversations and our marriage is strong not based on how comfortable we are with each other, but how we worked out our uncomfortable issues. She pointed out uncomfortable truths about me and they hurt, but I know they come from a place of love. If you find someone who isn’t afraid to tell you the uncomfortable truths, that’s real love.

I can’t wait until the day that we can watch stand-up comedy together. One of the reasons I love comedy is that it takes uncomfortable issues and make them funny. Great comedians can make you laugh and feel uncomfortable at the same time. It is an art form that I enjoy and respect.

Being uncomfortable will push you forward. Once you get past the uncomfortable zone, you will feel a whole lot better. You will get into more uncomfortable situations in the future, but you will be more equipped to deal with them. A comfortable life is good, but an uncomfortable life has the potential to turn great.

Love,
Daddy

Letter to My Sons #9

Dear sons,

Recently daddy said something not so nice to a family member. It hurt their feelings. Daddy apologized. As you go through life you will make mistakes just like me. The important thing is how you apologize.

Express your wrongdoing and say, “I am sorry.” Own up to your guilt and admit that you were wrong. Tell the person exactly what you did wrong and the impact that you put on them. No ifs (“sorry if I offended you), no blame-shifting (“But you did that”), and no passive voice (“Sorry if you were offended”). Offer what you can do to right the wrong.

Sometimes you don’t know when you are wrong until someone calls you out on it. If that’s the case, just be honest about your mistakes.

This is a short one.

Love,

Daddy

Letter to My Sons #8

Dear sons,

The last letter I wrote to you was three months ago. Time flies and you boys are growing up way too fast, especially our lovely little king.

Vương, you’re already walking, babbling, and playing with the big boys in just thirteen months. I still love your adoring smile. Please keep on smiling as you grow. Life will treat you much better if you give it a smile. I really enjoy hanging out with you at this age. You bright me pure joy and disconnect me from the digital world. I can’t even express how much happiness you have brought into our life.

Xuân, you are growing way too fast as well. I understand that you are in that terrible-three stage; therefore, I have to be tough on you. I cannot let you cry your way out of things. The world is not yours, buddy. We need to share. I have to admit that you are quite an eloquent three-year-old kid. You express yourself clearly like, “I hate your food.” You’re already using big words like impossible and professional. Thank you for calling me a “super professional” when I climb onto the roof. I was more like “super terrified” as I made my way up the ladder. Please be nice to your brothers, especially with Đạo.

Đạo, I understand your frustration with Xuân because you think that I always sided with him. I have explained to you repeatedly that he is only three years old and he is still your baby brother. I need you to be more patience with him. It drives me nuts when you said that you hated him. I am sorry for yelling at you last night about it and other conflicts between you and him. I do understand your point of view from an older brother, but I still cannot accept the way you treated your little brother. I am glad we talked last night until 10:40 pm, which was way past your bedtime. I promise you that I will do more activities with you. We will get a chance to bond one on one, but I need your help with your little brothers. You are a smart kid and voracious reader. I would really appreciate your help if you teach your brothers to read as well as you. I want to teach you Vietnamese, but I need to get Đán to up his reading skill.

Đán, it has been a pleasure reading with you at night. I am glad that you are trying and you have made tremendous progress. I have been tough on you because I don’t want you to make the same mistake I made when I was a kid. Like you, I hated reading. Everyone told me that reading was important, but I did not see the value of just trying to put the letters together into words. I thought reading was a waste of time until later in life when I was way into my 30s. I regretted that I didn’t find the joy and value of reading earlier. You still have time and I hope that I can help you to enjoy reading. As a brother, your love for Vương is unspeakable. I can trust him with you if you paid attention. You are great with Đạo even though you and him played rough at times. You are getting much better with Xuân. When you treat him nice, he wanted to hang out with you. He wanted to sit next to you at meal time like his big brothers. I am so glad that you have decided to play with him instead of against him. At school, you still have some trouble listening, but I believe that you will behave better. You’re a caring, charming kid. I love it when you pluck out my beard while I read. Sometimes, you stab me with a tweezer, which hurt like hell. Other then that, I find your service relaxing.

I love you four,

Daddy.

Letter to My Sons #7

Dear sons,

I am still struggling between freedom and structure. On one hand, I would like you to have the freedom to do whatever you want. On the other hand, I also need some structures, especially with Đạo and Đán. Every time you punch and kick each other, I feel the pain too. Should I step in to stop the fight or should I let you hurt each other until you figure out yourself? As a father, I find it too hard to stand and watch or to look away. My intervention doesn’t seem to get into your head. It rages me to see you repeat again and again as if my words have no meaning.

From the way you threw tantrums in public and the way you ignored your mom’s and my words continue to irritate me. I told you again and again, but nothing stuck. I had been hard on you lately and I am regretting it. So I am going to try the opposite direction. I am going to give you as much freedom as I can. As long as you don’t harm Xuân and Vương, I will trust you to make your own choice.

If you don’t want to read, I won’t make you. If you hate Taekwondo, you can quit. If you don’t want to take swimming lessons, you can stop. If you want iPad all the time, I won’t stop you. If you don’t want to take a bath, that’s fine. If you don’t want to brush your teeth, that’s on you. If you don’t want to eat, stay hungry.

I’ll do all I can to refrain from yelling at you or punishing you. I won’t cautious you when you fall, but I will be there for you when you get hurt. I won’t tell you what to do unless you ask for my advice. I won’t stop you loving you, but I will stop restraining you.

I had been wrong all along about how to love you. I had been over-protective. I worried too much about your behavior. I expected too high from you. I am ready to let go of who I want you to be and let you be who you want to be. By not reigning you in, I hope that you’ll soar instead of fall. Even if you fall, I’ll be there to pick you up.

Everyone makes mistakes. I made countless of mistakes in my life and being a parent is one of them. I hope that you will forgive me. My intention had been to be good to you. I wanted to give you a father-and-son relationship that I didn’t have. I am not blaming my dad for my mistakes. I am on a good term with him now. I don’t hold any grudges from him anymore. I am a grown man now and I am responsible for my own actions. If I fail you, it’s all on me—not your mom, not my dad.

I am struggling with my own conscience. I thought I would be a good parent, but I am not. I hope it is not too late to make the change. I am grateful that I have you. I thank your mother and the man above everyday for giving me four healthy, energetic boys. I know people who would love to have one kid, but they can’t. I know parents who don’t have the time to be with their kids everyday; therefore, I should not take our precious time together for granted. I love you four from the bottom of my heart.

Love,

Daddy.

Letter to My Sons #6

Dear sons,

These letters I am writing you were inspired by Julie Yip-Williams who wrote to her daughters when she was diagnosed with deadly cancer. In her letters, she was completely opened about her dying. Her hope was that her daughters would understand when they get a chance to read her words. I don’t want to wait until I become ill to begin to write to you.

Death is a heavy subject, especially at your age. I am still scared, but I have to accept the reality that I won’t escape death. I am still in good health today, but I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. These days, massive strokes and cancers can easily cut someone’s life short. If it were my turn to go, my greatest concern is you. I hope will remember me, but I want you to live on with your life.

One of the benefits of having four siblings is that you can rely on each other. When I was a kid, I loved this Vietnamese proverb: “Một cây làm chẳng nên non, ba cây chụm lại nên hòn núi cao.” It means one tree alone can’t do much, but three trees together will make a mountain. The four of you can make anything together. Even if I would end up in hell, I would be happy to know that you guys love and take care of each other. So don’t cry for me. Just remember my wish.

Sorry, this letter is a bit dark, but I want you to understand how I feel about death before it would be too late. I can’t take time for granted. Last week, one of my friends passed away unexpectedly. A few weeks before his death, we were going to get together with him. He met Đạo and Đán, but not Xuân and Vương. Unfortunately, we lost our chance. He had a massive stroke and could not recover. Life is short. So don’t wait before it’s too late.

Love,

Daddy.

Letter to My Sons #5

Dear sons,

Let’s talk about money, boys. I know you don’t understand the concept of money yet, but I want to write this down while it is still fresh in my mind. I hope you will never run into money issue with your brothers, but you can refer to this letter if you do.

The other day, Đạo and Xuân fought over a pack of Pocky at the playground and I made all of us go home. No matter how hard tried to calm you down, you were not able to control yourself. One of you went as far as screaming, “I hate my brother.” I would be a thousand times worse with money.

The power and evilness of money can create conflicts within family members. Even today I still witness tensions between adult siblings over money. Money can sabotage relationships and make family members turn on each other. I do not want to see that happening to you guys. Do not let money gets in between you and your brothers. No matter what goes on, put your love and respect for each other above money. Money comes and goes. Brothers stay together for life.

Your mom and I aren’t rich; therefore, you won’t have to worry about fighting over our money. The money you earn yourself will be more valuable than anything you inherited. Use money to support each other instead of letting money destroy your relationships. Nothing will hurt me more than seeing you guys fighting over money. Just remember that.

Take control of your money instead of letting it control you. Be generous to your brothers when they are in need. If you can do that for each other, I will be happy and proud. Nothing beats seeing my kids bonding and taking care of each other.

Love,

Daddy.

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