Explaining JAY-Z to My Kids

I have been exposing my two older sons to JAY-Z. I am not sure if this is a good parenting thing to do. Of course, my wife wouldn’t approve the idea. I figure if they can get past the “B-word,” the “F-word,” and the “N-word,” they might appreciate JAY-Z’s lyrical genius. The first two words are easy since they already know them. The third one, well, is not that simple.

They seem to enjoy The Black Album, especially the bouncy “Dirt Off My Shoulder.” Đán asked me the meaning behind the line “Middle finger to the law.” My explanation was, “Well, he gives his middle finger to the law because he doesn’t think the law works for him.” Đạo loves “December 4th” and he thinks JAY-Z is like Vương because they are both forth child and they didn’t give their mom any pain when they were born. Vương didn’t give his mom any pain because she already had anesthesia before they cut her open to take him out.

Đán kept asking me to play “Threat,” but the violent is a bit too much for him. He doesn’t quite understand the metaphor JAY-Z created in that song yet. Đạo’s jaw dropped when he heard, “If you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you son / I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one.” I had to explain to him the “B-word” in this case isn’t bad. He meant to say is that he could not be harassed. He also asked what does “doing fifty-five in the fifty-four” mean? I explained to him that the police pulled him over for driving 55 miles in the 54-mile zone. JAY-Z uses sarcasm to illustrate the absurdity that cops can use anything reason to pull him over. Đán asked, “What are sarcasm and absurdity?” Good question, let’s ask Siri.

Why Co-sleeping is Bad

One of my parenting failures has to be co-sleeping. I failed to give my kids the independence of sleeping on their own. It is becoming a serious issue that Đạo, my ten-year-old son, is afraid to sleep by himself or with Đán, my eight-year-old son. Đạo still needs an adult to sleep with him.

My wife is now occupied with Vương, our youngest son who is fifteen-month old. My mother-in-law is either stuck with Xuân, my three-year-old son, or Đạo. I am, on the other hand, is either stuck with Đán and Xuân or Đán and Đạo depending who Xuân would like to sleep with.

In the past, I didn’t think much about co-sleeping. In fact, I felt bad to let them sleep alone. Now, I view it as an epic failure on my part. It creates an unnecessary dependency for my kids and a distance in our marriage. My wife and I have not slept in the same bed since the day Đạo was born, which is more than a decade. It is also her preference because of my snoring issue, which is a concern for my kids as well. Even though they seemed to sleep right through my snores, I am worried about them being exposed to the loud noise.

As I am writing this post at two in the morning, we are on vacation and someone else is snoring extremely loud. The kids are sleeping fine, but I haven’t slept for two nights. I am dead tired, but I feel extremely bad for the kids. I am not sure if I will be able to drive in the morning since I can’t sleep.

I recognize how bad snoring can have an effect on other people; therefore, I could hardly sleep at night when co-sleeping with my kids. I tried sneaking to the coach in the living room so that they can’t hear me, but Đạo would wake up and follow me or Xuân would just scream without me. I should definitely seek treatment for my snoring issue, but my hope is to sleep alone so that I don’t have to bother anyone else.

One of my goals for 2020 is to train the kids to sleep by themselves or with each other and without me. Đán is the only one that would sleep by himself. We don’t have enough bedroom at the moment to give him his own space, but we will next year.

If you are a new parent and debating whether to co-sleep with your kids or not, I strongly recommend training to sleep on their own as early as possible.

Đán Turned Eight

Our second born turned eight last Friday. He is a strong, sweet boy. He loves seafood, especially lobster. He loves his family, Vương in particular. He bonds with Đạo even though Đạo always cajoled him. He and Xuân are getting along better than before.

Although he doesn’t enjoy reading, he has made tremendous effort to read with me. Before bedtime, we would read a chapter together. As a result, his reading level has improved tremendously. We’re a third way through My Life as a Meme, by Janet Tashjian and Jake Tashjian. After our reading session, he would pluck my facial hair and white hair with a tweezer while I read my book. I love our time together on weekdays.

He got a few complains from his teachers for not following instructions, but he is a good student. He has his moments of emotional outbreak, but he has a kind heart. I am very proud of him.

Different Ages, Different Stages

I love my ten-year-old son, but I want to smack him at times. He groaned when being asked to help his three-year-old brother out with simple tasks. He snatched toys right out of his brother’s hand. He threw a fit when being asked to help his seven-year-old brother with reading. When they played Minecraft together, he always wanted all the treasures and his younger brother had to give up. When his seven-year-old brother came across something he wanted for himself, he would leave his world so that his younger couldn’t get the treasure.

At school, however, he is sweet and helpful. I got nothing but compliments from his teachers for being a wonderful student and classmate. I just don’t get it. Why can’t he be like that at home? I hope this is just the ten-year-old stage and he’ll grow out of it. Even now, I can’t stand adults who think only about themselves. I do not want him to grow up that way as I have always tried to instill kindness, selflessness, and compassionate in him. I also constantly reminded him the important relationship with his brothers—especially when we (the parents) will no longer be with them.

My seven-year-old son is improving at school and at home. I have not received any complaints from his teachers since the first week of school. He is also making peace with his three-year-old brother. He makes his three-year-old brother wanting to join the big brothers at dinner table without the booster seat. He always wanted to please his older brother and willing to play with his older brother’s rule. He is also getting better at reading. He like me to read with him; therefore, it has been a good bonding time for us. My goal now is to get him to read on his own so I can move on to the three-year-old.

Speaking of the terrifying three, he is going through that mean and whiny stage. If he can’t get things his way, he would scream no matter where we were. Unfortunately, I have been down this road twice already; therefore, I pretty much zoned out the outside world as well and just let him deal with his own emotion. He picks up words so fast. The other day, he said to me, “Daddy, it is impossible for me to put on my seatbelt.” What? Impossible?

My one-year-old son is obviously the most adorable one right now. Everyone loves him. His three older brothers treat him like a doll. They just picked him up and threw him around. So far, he survived all the rough love with a smile on his face. I am sure he will start to change pretty soon.

I am kind of surprise that life isn’t as chaos as I would have imagined with four boys. Sure, it is noisy as heck, but we seem to be able to manage with lots of yelling and caffeine.

Too Many Activities

I am getting overwhelmed with Đạo and Đán’s schedule of activities these days. Every Wednesday, they have swim practice from 5:15 pm to 6 pm. Every Friday, the have lion dance from 5 pm to 6:30 pm, Boy Scout from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and Vietnamese language from 8:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Every Saturday, they have Taekwondo from 3 pm to 5 pm.

I am cool with swimming as a sport, lion dance as a form of art, and Taekwondo as a self-defense. I am also fine with learning Vietnamese. Boy Scout is still new for me. My wife signed them up with the Vietnamese pack. They get to hangout with other Vietnamese-American kids just like them. I also have the opportunity to meet other Vietnamese-American parents who go the extra mile for their kids. They take them to weekly meetings, help them with fundraising, provide food for events, and accommodate them to camping trips.

As parents, we do so much for our kids. In addition to school, we are packing up their days with so many activities, but not giving them time and space to think for themselves. They don’t have their own time to be creative or innovative. We are shaping them up of how we wanted them to be instead of letting them figuring out the rope themselves.

When I was a kid, my mom put no restriction on me. Her only unwritten requirement was that I better get through four years of college. Other than that I was pretty could do anything I wanted. I didn’t make all the right choices, but I made all my own choices. I struggled and survived on my own. I am still not sure how she let me free like that. She did not do anything for me, except for making the best home-cook meals. She never looked at my report cards and she never asked me how I was doing in school. Somehow in the back of my mind, I just knew I could not screwed up. I felt guilty if I watched too much TVs and didn’t do my homework. I felt like I let her down if I failed. She devoted her entire life on me.

Now if I give my kids no restrictions, they will spend every single minute on their iPads. Even though we only allow them to have iPads on the weekend, that’s all they think about on the weekend. We were out having a picnic with the Boy Scouts yesterday and all he wanted to do was to go home and play on his iPad.

On one hand, I don’t want to fill out their time with too many activities. I want them to relax and to be bored so that they are forced to think outside the box. I want them to find their own passion and creativity. On the other hand, I can’t stand back watching them gluing their eyes to the screens.

I am not sure if I have articulated my point. I feel like I am too involved in their lives. I am not trusting them to live on their own and to make their own path in life. I worry that if they make bad decisions they would end up in jail or being a junkie. Just saying.

Vương Turns One

A year ago today, my life was filled with joy and trauma at once. My baby boy, whose birth sent me to an ER for the first time in my life, turns one today. I simply can’t believe how fast time has flown by. Balancing life and family has been stressful, but Vương has been nothing but a bundle of joy.

His smile melts every heart. His brothers love him even though they treat him like a doll. They rough him up, but he doesn’t seem to mind. I was so afraid that Đán would accidentally drop Vương’s head first to the ground, but I am glad that had not happened yet. I am more nervous for our little son than he is himself. I can now trust Đạo and Đán with Vương.

In addition to his constant smiling, Vương has an ear for music. Every time I turn on Vietnamese dance pop or hip-hop, he would feel the beat and dance to it. He recognizes his favorite songs and shows it through his joyful groove.

He decided to walk just a few weeks shy from his first birthday. He can now walk and jam to the music at the same time. I love watching him walk and dance around the house.

I wish I could slow down time because Vương is our last baby. I am going to miss these precious moments. They grow way too fast. I am still glad that I have been able to see him making his progress through life.

Happy first birthday, son. I love you.

Đán’s Misbehaving

Just two weeks into his second grade, Đán already started trouble. His general-music/healthy-habits teacher already emailed me about his behavior in class. He rolled around the floor and played around with the power cable connected to a projector. He didn’t follow instructions during lock-down drill. He ignored his teacher and distracted other students. We talked to him right after school. He told us that he was bored. We asked him to behave and he promised.

Yesterday, I received a call from his English and Spanish teachers. They both told me similar stories. He was bouncing on a chair and when his English teacher asked him to stop he ignored him. He said that he didn’t care. After school, I gave him an earful. I told him that he broke his promise to us. His response was, “I forgot.” I wanted to smack the sense out of him, but I didn’t. I took him and Đạo to swimming lesson early, but I only let Đạo into the water to play before class. He screamed and begged me, but I did not concede. It was a long hour, but I needed him to remember.

My wife talked to him at night as well. Since I will be away, I am hoping that she won’t let him have screen time on this weekend. He has to learn his lesson. As much as I like to give my kids freedom, we have to reign him in somehow.

I am contradicting myself as a father. I don’t want to put too much restraint on him. For the summer, I tried to give him as much room as possible. I didn’t say anything when he didn’t want to brush his teeth, take a bath, or eat his meal. I let him play iPad as much as his heart desired. I gave up on teaching him to read. My wife said I was ignoring him.

All of the sudden, he comes around to reading. We still read picture books, but I am fine with them as long as he wanted to read. He even wanted to write book report for his class assignments. I have been more than happy to help him out. I have been so proud of him and I told him so until his misbehaving this week.

All I can do now is reminding him to behave in class. All I can do now is hoping that he will change his behavior without killing his free spirit. He is still my baby boy.

Dễ dãi

Sáng nay sau khi cắt cỏ, tôi trở vào nhà uống nước, nghỉ ngơi, và đợi cho mồ hôi ráo. Mấy thằng lớn thì ôm iPad chỉ còn lại Vương ngồi chơi một mình. Thấy vậy tôi đến chơi với nó. Không bao lâu nó lại bò vào lòng ngực tôi. Sợ mồ hôi và cỏ trên áo thun làm nó dơ nhưng nó vẫn ôm chặt lấy tôi và tựa đầu nói vào vai tôi. Không bao lâu nó thiếp đi. Đặc nó xuống ngủ ngon lành. Thằng này dễ dãi thấy mà thương.

Đầu thai

Đán nói:

Khi ba mẹ chết con sẽ không lập gia đình. Chỉ ở vậy để lo lắng cho em Xuân, em Vương, và anh Đạo. Nhưng ba có thể đầu thai thành con chó trở về chơi với tụi con không?

Thằng này là comedian tương lai của tôi hay là nó muốn chửi xéo ba nó?

The Leftover Parents

My seven-year-old nephew is getting used to having his dad finishing up his food for him. Whether a plate of cold pasta or a bowl of mushy phở, his dad took it all in. The other day, he had two bites left from his spring roll and yet he did not want to finish it because he wanted to play on his iPad with my kids. I told him Đạo and Đán would wait for him and the iPad would wait for him. He just needed to finish up two bites, but he refused and his dad let him off the table.

This weekend, my wife made delicious dumpling noodles. He ate all the dumplings and half of the noodle. His dad was not there so he asked him mom to finish it. Unlike his dad, his mom would never eat his leftover. She told him, “If you can’t finish it, give it to grandma.” My mother-in-law refused not because she didn’t want to, but she was also trying to finish her own bowl.

I said to him, “You can finish it. There’s not that much left.” He looked angry. I handed him my bowl and said, “Why don’t you finish mine and I’ll finish yours.” He shook his head. I went on, “So you don’t want to eat my leftover, but you expect others to eat yours?” He began to sob his mom came over to calm him down, “That’s OK if you can’t finish it.” She took the bowl and dumped the rest into the trash can.

My wife gave me a look for making him cry. I was just trying to teach him about not wasting food. I did not feel bad for him at all, but I did feel bad for my wife. She took her time to made the noodle soup for everyone. Đạo and Đán helped wrapping the dumplings.

This issue can be easily avoidable if parents just give their kids a small portion first. If they didn’t have enough, they can ask for more. I lived in Vietnam and witnessed first hand how hungry children eating strangers’ leftovers at phở places. It broke my heart and irritated me to see this kind of behavior from Asian-American kids.

Vietnamese parents, please make your kids finish their own fucking food.