Snowboarding and more

Letter to My Sons #31

Dear Xuân,

Congratulations on acing the Pueblo test. When you studied hard, the result showed. Keep up the great work. I learned about the Pueblo people as well from studying with you. If you need help with school work, I am here for you.

I am glad that we had finally getting into our reading routine. I noticed the improvement in your reading with just 10 minutes a day. You will discover so many wonderful stories through reading. So please keep on reading.

I enjoyed your special Spanish performance on “Pin Pon.” Your whole class did a wonderful job. I loved the part where you interacted with your classmate. I would love to hear you sing more Spanish songs.

I know you wanted to ski with your cousin Hân and today we made it happened. We had a great time skiing and snowboarding at Roundtop. You are a skillful skier. Keep up the good work!


Letter to My Sons #30

My Sweetest Xuânshine,

Yes, you are our sweet boy. You take meticulous care of your baby brother. You always play with him. You give him a bath. You even wiped his butt for him. In return, Vương adores you. He listens to you more than me. He comes to your defense when others mess with you. You get into heated arguments with him sometimes, but you never hit him. In fact, you don’t get physical with anyone.

I love your self constraint, but I am also a bit worried. That’s the reason your older brothers irritate the hell out of me when they don’t care to protect you. I can see that you look up to them and want to hang out with them, but they don’t want you to join them. They say I am biased, but I call them out when I see it. Until they figure out how to take good care of their younger brothers, I will always grill them.

Even though you have your sensitive side, you are a tough kid. You can always keep up with me and your older brothers in the sports we play. Thank you for keeping me company at the skatepark when your other brothers don’t want to join me. Thank you for skiing with me. You are a fantastic skier who can take on any terrain. I am also glad that you are trying out snowboarding. It is challenging at first, but you will love it once you get it.

With academics, you are a bit behind. It is my fault. We will get you the help you need to catch up. Once you can focus, you will do well. As you are getting older, you need to start paying attention. Happy eighth birthday, my Xuânshine. I love you with all of my heart.


Letter to My Sons #29

Happy birthday my dearest Đán—the son who gives me happiness and headaches. You are still my blading champ. As much as I wanted to keep up with you, I could never drop into those tall ramps like you had pulled off. Even though I spent more time at the skatepark than you, I could never catch up to you. If you put your heart and mind into blading, I guarantee that you can do a whole lot more.

If you practice playing the piano and reading the notes, you will excel in your music journey. As I reminded you many times, private piano lessons are expensive. I don’t mind paying if you put your efforts into playing. I don’t want to waste money, time, and your instructor’s dedication.

I admire your snowboarding skills as well, but your head and soul are devoted to your digital activities. You spend way too much time on your computer and your phone. You can’t control yourself. You refuse to do anything else willingly. You isolate yourself. You don’t focus on your schoolwork. You get frustrated and depressed when you can’t spend time on your digital devices. I don’t want to restrict your access, but I need to. I worry everyday about your digital addiction. You are not alone though. Your brothers, your cousins, your peers are living and breathing in the digital generation.

Now that you are twelve years old, I hope that you will make better decisions and choices. I love you and I am here for you until the day I die.


Letter to My Sons #28

My Dearest Vương,

My lil King turns 5 today. Being the youngest, you get showered with love and some envy. You get along with all four of your brothers, but you are closest to Xuân. You guys are closer to the same age. Isn’t it nice to have a brother to hangout and play with?

Unlike your older brothers, you spent lots of time at home, especially during the pandemic. I was a bit worried about your social isolation, but you had proved that you can make friends and be independent at the same time. I am so happy for you.

You are developing fast and picking up new skills with ease when you are willing to try. You are now riding your balance bike at the skatepark like a pro. I am sure you’ll be able to ride a paddled bike soon. You have always wanted to hold your hands when you ice skate, but you can skate on your own. You are making tremendous progress. I can’t wait for you to be able to ski on your own as well. That would be great.

You are doing great in kindergarten, even though dropping off is still a bit tough. You still want to stay with your mom and that’s understandable. She loves you unconditionally. I am not worrying too much about your education. You are smart and a keen observer. I am sure you will do fine.

The last baby step you need to get over is pooping in a diaper. The goal for turning 5 is to use the toilet to poop. You can definitely do it. You just don’t want to. I know you like to do things on your own time and term, but this one is way overdue. Let’s get it done and over with.

I love you with all my heart!


Letter to My Sons #27

My Dearest Đạo,

It’s hard to believe our first-born turns 14 today. You are well-liked in school as well as scouting and you have friends in both places.

I am glad to see that you don’t get bullied or discriminated against for being an Asian American. When I was your age, I faced both; therefore, I dreaded going to school. Everyday seemed long as hell. Maybe I got picked on because my English was not good.

Speaking of school, I hope you are doing well. I haven’t checked on your assignments because I want you to be independent and to be responsible for your own work. You still need to get better at staying on tasks.

At home, you get along with Đán the most. I wish you treat Xuân and Vương better. Even if they annoy you, they are still your baby brothers. I want you to love and protect them. You are always a big brother they will look up to.

As for your mother, you, and me, we are getting along fine for the most part. Well, happy birthday, my son!


Letter to My Sons #26

My Dear Sons,

I understand you are hating me right now. You think I am ruining your life, but I am trying to prevent you from ruining your life. I can’t sit back and watch you sink deeper and deeper into the digital ocean. Taking away your digital devices is a difficult decision, but I have to make it because I love you.

I understand your frustration right now, but it will be better for you in the long run. I don’t know how long it will take before I let you get back online, but I need you to know your priorities. Playing video games and spending hours on devices aren’t your priorities. I talked to you about priorities and responsibilities over and over again, but nothing sank in. My words don’t mean anything because the digital world has taken over your head.

You don’t want to go anywhere because you want to stay home to spend time on your device. Your mother and I give you so many opportunities we didn’t have when we were kids, but you took them for granted. You gave up ice skating. You gave up ice hockey. You gave up swimming. You gave up rollerblading. You don’t even want skiing or snowboarding anymore.

How many times have I told you that skiing or snowboarding is a privilege not all the kids your age could have. It is not a cheap sport, but we are bootstrapping as much as we can to give you some fun time during the winter. You choose to stay home and spend time online.

You are losing interest in playing piano. You rather spend time playing video games than practicing piano. If you continue down this path, you will struggle with school work as well. You have yet to figure out how to balance your time. In the last several months, I gave you the freedom to take responsibility for your own choices, but you had shown that you were not ready to keep your balance.

We tried to cut down digital time to an hour a day, but that didn’t work either. You could not leave the device when your time was up. We had to repeatedly ask you to log off. My biggest failure as a parent is not being firm enough with you. My words are no longer effective when I am being too soft with you.

I struggle with what I should do. Should I let you do whatever you want and hope for the best? I can’t stop caring, concerning, and worrying about you. It would be much easier for me to let loose, but I just can’t watch you ruin your life. I don’t know how you will turn out in the future. I just hope that I won’t regret anything I could have done for you but I didn’t.

You are right. I am not a good father. Being a parent is way more stressful than I had imagined. I am not concerned about being a failure. I am not concerned about how you will turn out. My concerns are that you will go on and live a good life when I will no longer be around.


Letter to My Sons #25

My Dear Lil’ Xuânshine,

I can’t believe you turn seven today. My Lil’ Xuânshine is growing fast. You are so athletic at such a young age. If you keep up with the sports you’re interested in, you will live a healthy life. I didn’t see the value in sports when I was younger; therefore, I didn’t take good care of myself. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did.

Thank you for accompanying me to the skatepark when your older brothers refused to go with us. I loved spending time skating together, especially during the nights when the lights turned on. I also enjoyed observing you doing your own things on your scooter. You are improving your skills everyday. Please don’t give up.

In addition to scootering, you are also doing great with swimming lessons. You can now swim on your own at the deep end. We don’t force you, but we give you the opportunity. Keep taking as many lessons as you can. Swimming is definitely a good skill to have.

Needless to say, you are an awesome skier. You have the speed and you can ski down double black diamond slopes with ease. I hope you will continue to ski and to learn new skills. Snowboarding requires a bit of patience and you are now too good with skiing, you don’t want to switch. That’s OK. At least you gave it a try. You can always come back to it later on if you want.

Taking piano lessons is no longer your priority or interest, just keep doing it. I hope one day something will spark and you will pick it up again like you did with scootering.

School is even more important than sports. You are a fast learner and you can learn anything when you put your mind to it. You are a good student when you want to. Don’t follow your classmates and get into trouble. I understand peer pressures, but you are a wonderful kid. Everyone loves you, especially in our family.

I am always here for you. You can count on me. I love you with all of my heart. Happy birthday, my Lil’ Xuânshine.


Letter to My Sons #24

My Dearest Đạo,

I can’t believe our oldest son is turning thirteen today. It still feels like yesterday your mom and I brought you home from the hospital. I could never forget the feeling of how to take care of a tiny baby. What if I just slipped my hands and dropped you to the ground. If you got sick in the middle of the night, what would I do? Fortunately you were strong and resilient. You didn’t give me the anxiety that I had forecasted.

Being the oldest kid is not easy. You have to bear the responsibility of being an oldest brother. You used to complain that life was unfair, but now you seem to accept your role. I can see you are trying your best to care for your younger brothers even though they can get under your skin. No matter what goes on, no matter what happens, just always remember you guys are brothers for life.

Now that you are entering middle school, your academics mattered. My only goal is for you to be happy and for me the only path to happiness that I know of is to keep up your grades. Once you take full responsibility for your education, your mother and I will give you the freedom to be more independent. We don’t want you to screw up your life. With your voracious reading and fast learning, school work should not be too difficult for you. You just need to put in the efforts.

For sports, you love skiing and you are damn good at it. You’ve pushed me to a higher level: double-black diamonds. Today is your last day of the Learn to Play hockey program. You can join a hockey team after today, but I am not sure if hockey is the right sport for you. You are not the aggressive type of player. If you want to join the team, however, we will be more than happy to support you. I am also glad to see you picking up rollerblading again and joining me in aggressive skating.

Soon you will a like a bird flying free from home, but for now, you are still under our wings and we do all we can for you. I enjoyed every moment we spent together. I love you, son, and happy birthday!


Letter to My Sons #23

Happy sixth birthday my brightest Xuânshine!

I am happy with your development as well as your accomplishment. You are doing well in kindergarten. One of your teacher’s comments was that you routinely retell your personal experiences and stories. Seeing you are thriving makes me feel less guilty. I am so sorry that I have not spent time teaching you reading and practicing math. Your older brother still needs more help from me. I will get to you soon. I promise.

Fortunately, you are a quick learner who pays close attention; therefore, you excel in everything you do. You picked up skiing effortlessly just like how you picked up biking and ice skating. I wish you would continue to learn figure skating, but you seem to fall out of love with it just like your older brothers. You have started piano lessons and you seem to have the chops for it. Keep going, my son. I believe that you can do anything when you put your mind to it.

Your mother and I are very proud of you. As we are celebrating your special day today, we want to thank you for bringing energy and Xuânshine to our family. Being a younger brother, you try to catch up with Đạo and Đán from sports to video games. Being an older brother, you treat Vương with care and tenderness. You are a wonderful grandchild and a son. We all love you dearly.


Letter to My Sons #22

My Dearest Sons,

You are my lifelines. You are my saviors. Without you, I have nothing. Reality is harsh, ruthless, and brutal, but I accepted it. When my mother passed away, part of me had died. Even in her dying days, I came close to losing everything, but you saved me. I am forever grateful to each one of you.

The other day, I felt miserable. I went for a drink and headed to the skatepark. I shouldn’t drink and skate, but I needed to clear my head. As I was ready to hit the ramps, I was reminded it was time to pick you up from school. I packed up and left the skatepark. You saved me once again. I am telling you this because I don’t want you to ever do what I was about to do.

I want you to know that nothing can replace my love for you. Everything I do for you comes from a place of love, even tough love. Whenever Đán was frustrated with me, he would tell me, “I wish I had a normal dad. Why can’t I have a normal dad?” I don’t want to be a normal dad. I strive to be an extraordinary dad. A normal dad would drop you off at a skatepark, watch you skate, and tell you what you want to hear, “You skate so well. I am so proud of you.” I wanted to join you and to take on the challenge with you.

Most of the time you would rather sit in front of the screen than go to the skateparks with me, but you went because you wanted to make me happy. You might think nothing of it, but I treasured every moment of it. As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, I enjoyed rollerblading with you in the skateparks that had bright white lights. The thrills of dropping in the bowls, riding around the ramps, jumping off the benches made me feel like a kid again.

I am proud of the progression that we had made together. As Đạo pointed out, we were intimidated by the lowest ramp when we first started out. Now we can skate on almost every ramp in the skateparks. I hope that one day, you will think back and remember our time together. Thank you for making these unforgettable memories for me. Soon you’ll head to college and live your own life, and I will miss having you around.

Thank you for taking on this journey with me. As Xuân is picking up rollerblading, I can’t wait for Vương to join our crew.

I love you guys.

Snowboarding and more