Letter to My Sons #18

My Brightest Xuânshine,

I can’t pinpoint how our conversation started, but I remembered exactly what you had asked me, “Do you miss Bà Nội?” I replied, “I miss her everyday.” Then I asked you if you know where she is and you responded, “She is buried in the ground.” You are one smart five-year-old and I can rely on you. When one of your cousins took little Vương out of the ice skating arena, you notified me. I ran out of the building and saw little Vương standing in the parking lot. If you didn’t tell me, something could have happened to your baby brother. Thank you so much.

As an older brother to baby Vương, you are caring and loving. Most of the time, you let him have it his way. You didn’t hit him back when he punched you. I observed and appreciated your compassion toward your baby brother. With Đạo and Đán, you were more competitive. When you couldn’t fight them physically, you used your words to get them in trouble. You even admitted your exaggeration.

In our family, you hold the record for early accomplishments. I am not sure if Vương would beat your records, but you are still indisputable. You started to talk in complete sentences early. You learned how to ride a bike early. You started ice skating early as well. You can pick up ice skating techniques with not much effort. You’re a natural skater. Keep it up, kid.

I can’t believe you will be starting kindergarten soon. I hope you will excel in education just like you had excelled in ice skating. Out of my four children, you give me the least stress. I don’t have to worry much about you, but I love you just as much. You are my brightest Xuânshine.


Letter to My Sons #17

My Sweetest Đán,

You asked me why I always carry a book with me. You find reading boring. When I was your age, I didn’t see the benefit of reading either and it had been one of my regrets in life. I wished I had started reading around your age now. Books allow me to be somewhere else without having to be there physically. Books allow me to be in someone else’s head. Reading not only enriches my knowledge, but also makes my life much more exciting. I encourage you to give books a chance. Trust me, you will find reading anything but boring. Reading will also make your academic life much easier.

With the pandemic, online classes have been a huge challenge for you. It is not easy to sit still in front of a screen and listen to your teachers, but you do well when you focus and pay attention. I sound like a broken record, but your education is very important for you. Study hard now and it will pay off later in your life. No matter what you choose to do, your education will help you get there. So stay focused and do your best. I am here to help anytime you need me. I enjoy being with you.

I loved the camping trip we went together with your Cub Scouts. I admire your ability to make friends. No matter boys or girls, you can play with them all. You even found a friend in ice skating lessons. I hope that your friend inspires you to go further with your skating. You have a natural talent for sports. You can ski, ice skate, and rollerblade. You pick up techniques quickly. If you pay attention, you can do anything. I also admire your fearlessness. You fall, get back up, and do it again. You have motivated me to take more risks on the higher ramps when we rollerblade together. I wished I had the opportunity to learn these sports when I was a kid. Even though I am starting out late, I still enjoy them. I am not forcing you into doing anything, but I encourage you to stay active.

Cooking is a wonderful activity and I am glad you’re enjoying it. I love your Hanami Dango and hope to enjoy them in our next vacation. Your mother is happy and proud to see you in the kitchen. You’re already way ahead of me in culinary. Keep up the good work.

You have always been a sweet kid. You are kind and friendly. You love your brothers. Lately however, I have noticed that you are not as happy as you were before. You often get into arguing and fighting with Đạo. I understand that he could say things to provoke you, but you need to control your emotions. Calm down and don’t let his words get to you. You are strong physically so train your mentality as well. You are honest and you have my complete trust. You can come to me or your mom anytime. We are here for you. We love you very much, our sweet son!


Letter to My Sons #16

My Dearest Đạo,

Today is your day and you have made me so proud. You have finally worked up your courage to get your first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. I applaud you for your bravery. I understand your fear for needles, but I asked you to trust me. When I reassured you that you wouldn’t feel a thing, I was not just saying it to cajole you into getting the vaccine. I meant it because I took two shots and I didn’t feel anything. You still resisted when the time came for your shot and I asked you to trust me again. Even the pharmacist who administered the vaccine also confirmed that it only took two seconds and you would feel nothing. We were right, weren’t we? I am glad that you came to your senses and that you cooperated. I was so happy when you took that shot and I can assure you that the next one will be as painless. Trust me. Your mom and I wanted you to go through this to protect you. We love you too much to jeopardize your life. When it is safe for your brothers to get vaccinated, they will. Believe us.

I am equally proud to see you graduate from elementary school today. You have completed your Spanish immersion program. It had been a challenging year for school. You had to sit in front of the computer all day long and you had so much distraction right at your fingertips. Although you strayed off the track a bit, you had pulled through. Time has flown by so fast. It still feels like yesterday that I placed your tiny body into the giant car seat to take you home from the hospital for the first time. During the ride, I was extremely anxious. I didn’t know if we were able to keep you alive at home. Other than the jaundice concerns, you turned out well. Another milestone for me was when you picked up books and read voraciously. I was so proud that we are raising a reader. You have also excelled in sports such as swimming, skiing, and ice skating. You know how much I love ice skating and I hope that you will continue the journey with me.

Being the oldest kid is tough, especially in a Vietnamese family, because we expect you to be a role model for your brothers. They look up to you. When you treated them with kindness, they responded well to you. Đán, in particular, is very fond of you. He would do anything for you. You will be relying on each other in the world outside of our home.

Now that you have graduated from elementary school, you will finish high school and go away for college before you know it. You will succeed if you stay focused. Continuing reading will get you far. I wish I had an appreciation for reading as early as you had. Reading not only opens your mind to new information, but also lets you inside someone else’s head. So keep on reading.

Once again, I am very proud of you. I will always be there for you whenever you need me. I hope that I have earned your trust and your honesty. You know how important it is for you to be completely honest with me. Please don’t let me lose my trust in you. Because I love you so much, it hurts to lose that trust.



Letter to My Sons #15

My dearest Đạo,

When you and your brothers were downstairs having breakfast, your mom was still tired; therefore, she was still in bed. I came in to check on her. I lay down next to her and we had a mundane conversation about ice skating. You came in with a smile on your face and asked what we were doing. I told you that we were just talking and you went back downstairs.

Later in the evening, as we were ready to go to bed, you asked me again, “Seriously, what were you and mom doing this morning?” I replied, “We were just talking. What do you think we were doing?” As if you had waited for me to ask you that question, you immediate responded, “You guys were having sex.” I was a bit surprised and curious, so I asked you, “What do you know about having sex?” You replied, “Something really gross.”

My twelve-year-old son who doesn’t even care what clothes to wear is being aware of sex. I am glad you’re curious, but I am not sure where get the notion that sex is gross. We will work on that as well. Although I am comfortable talking about sex, I am struggling with it myself. Maybe we can learn from each other. So if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. I am here to listen and I can provide you what I know from my own experience.

To me, the physical connection is as important as the mental connection. Sex without the real connection is not sex—it’s porn. If you have sex with someone you truly love, you will enjoy it much more. You no longer feel the fears, the shames, the guilts, and the sins. You don’t have to sneak around. You don’t have to be concerned about unwanted pregnancy. You don’t have to worry about sexual transmitted diseases. You don’t need to check out other people. Like Method Man said, “No need to shop around, you got the good stuff at home.” To get to that point, you will need to wait until you are mature enough and ready to make the commitment to who you truly love.

Having said all of that, not everyone feels the same way about sex. It is hard when you and your partner aren’t on the same page on sex. It could be done, but you really have to work it out. How do you know if you and your partner are on the same level or not? Before you decide to make the next big step together, test it out. Give it a try or several tries and you need to be completely honest with each other. Do you enjoy it or not? Set your expectations if you want it or not. If you don’t do this from the beginning, you will be regretting it or miserable on the rest of your journey together. You might even end up in a divorce.

That’s far down the road. For now, if you have any question about sex, I am here for you.



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.



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.



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.



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).


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.


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.