For Memorial weekend, we went camping again. This time with our family instead of Cub Scouts. We cooked. We ate. We biked a bit. The kids spent most of the time on their screens. We wanted to escape, but the digital devices were inescapable.

Seeing the kids gluing their eyes to their screens from the moment they woke up to the time they went to bed broke my heart. They took no appreciation of the nature surrounding them. I can reinforce my boys, but not their cousins. I stayed quiet to avoid confrontations.

What was the point of venturing into the woods only to spend time on screens? I had no motivation to do any activities other than biking. I wanted to check out the skatepark nearby, but I just went around the campsite collecting woods and burning them. I enjoyed making campfires and watching the flames.

It was such a shame that digital devices had taken over the kids’ life. No matter where they went, they had to be connected. Bonding time turned into screen time. Am I being too biased with video games? Am I being too worrisome? Am I the only one concerned about digital addiction? I hope I am wrong. I hope they will turn out fine.

Last Scouting Camp of the Year

Last Friday evening, I took Đán, Xuân, and Vương to Camp Wilson to start our camping weekend for the Cub Scouts. The campsite prohibited vehicles from entering; therefore, we had to carry our gears from the parking lot to the site. Fortunately, the three boys were huge helpers. Even Vương carried pillows and sleeping bags. Đán had to set up the tent and take it down all by himself to prove to the leaders that he could. He passed the test.

Once other Cubs and their parents poured in, we started dinner. My wife came to take Vương home. He didn’t want to sleep in the woods without his mom. Around 9:30 pm, Đán and Xuân went to bed. I stayed up chatting with leaders and other parents until one in the morning.

On Saturday, the kids had advancement activities all day. After sending the boys off in the morning, I went back to the tent to catch some sleep. I got back out around 10 am. We had lunch and I joined the kids for the afternoon activities, which included playing games and hiking for two miles.

Right after we had delicious phở for dinner, the rain poured down hard. Đán, Xuân and I ran into our tent. We kicked back, relaxed, and listened to the rain crashing against the plastic tarp. The sounds reminded me of my childhood in Việt Nam. I felt like a kid again and I wanted to freeze time. It was such a special moment with my kids. I don’t know if they will remember it or not, but I definitely will never forget the moment. Then I realized that it would be the last scout camping trip with Đán as a Cub. He will be joining the Troop next year. I don’t have any doubt that he will survive on his own.

I am still going to be part of the Cubs for a while with Xuân and Vương. Through Liên Đoàn Hùng Vương, I was able to connect with other parents and make friends. We have many things in common including family, culture, and language. When not scouting together, we like to hang out, enjoy food and drinks, and make jokes.

An Honor

Yesterday Đán and I accompanied Đạo to attend the National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony. My wife couldn’t come because she had to take Xuân and Vương swimming. It was Xuân’s last session for swimming lesson; therefore, he had to a test.

Throughout this school year, Đạo has attended meetings, maintained a high GPA, and completed service projects and tasks. In honor of his dedication and effort, we were invited to celebrate his accomplishments. The ceremony was short and sweet. Students and counselor gave short speeches. Students and parents dressed up. Đạo and Đán wore buttoned shirts and khaki pants for the first time.

After we picked up Đạo’s certificate and took a few photos, we headed to 99°c Hot Pot to celebrate. The three of us had lunch here a few months ago after our scouting camping trip. It has become our favorite spot. We ate so much. It was a great night. My wife and I are proud of his accomplishments.

Props to the Hùng Vương Scout Leaders

Kudos to all the leaders and parents for making the camping trip fun, engaging, and valuable for all of us. I also appreciate the feedback to help improve our next trip and reduce wasted food.

As I said briefly in our meeting, all the adults should step up to take the leftovers home. I wouldn’t mind taking home the extra eggs, but I wouldn’t be able to turn them into delicious flan like Chị Trâm Anh did. In fact, I have been eating bún all week.

As for the leaders, please don’t take it too hard on yourselves. I definitely appreciate transparency, but oversharing can be overwhelming. With all the emails flooding my inbox, I have trouble keeping up with all the information. I am absolutely fine with not getting emails that don’t involve me.

We are grateful for your dedication and contribution to our Cub. It’s a labor of love and I can’t do what you do. So please keep up the great work, my leaders!

Đán’s Strengths and Challenges

At home Đán is a caring grandson, son, and brother. He loves his grandmother and he is closest to Đạo, his older brother. His interactions with his parents and younger siblings depend on his mood. Đán enjoys speedy, challenging sports including snowboarding and rollerblading. He’s a fast learner, especially with any activities he is interested in. For example, he likes building PCs; therefore, he excels at learning all the parts and putting them all together.

His challenges are lack of self-control and discipline. He doesn’t know when to turn off his brain. Asking him to get off his game or taking a break from his PC would spark an emotional breakdown. Some nights he couldn’t go to sleep because he could not stop thinking about what he was doing during the day. Once he is focused on something, he can’t turn his mind off. As a result, he can’t concentrate on schoolworks or other activities.

At school, he didn’t do too well in previous years. He struggled the most during the pandemic. He could not stay focused through online learning. He fell behind academically in math and language arts. He often zoomed out during class time. His father had to sit next to him to remind him to pay attention.

This academic year, however, he has made tremendous improvements. He listens to his teachers. He gets along well with his classmates. He enjoys school more this year. His teachers speak positively of his performance and behavior in classes. Although he seems to be doing better in a smaller environment, he is still struggling with staying focused on reading comprehension and staying on tasks.

One of his previous teachers recognized his weakness during the pandemic; therefore, whenever he was taking his tests, she would pull him out of the group and read the questions to him. Because she was reading the questions, he couldn’t rush through to just click on an answer without knowing the question. As a result, he was able to slow down and to think before selecting a random answer. Đán needs to be reminded to help him stay on track.

Chia sẻ trong quan hệ gia đình

Tháng vừa rồi tôi nhận được thư “bạn đọc” chia sẻ trải nghiệm về mối quan hệ gia đình, nhất là cách dạy dỗ con cái. Tôi đọc và thấy những gì chị nói có giá trị nên mạo muội đăng lại đây để có thể giúp đỡ cha mẹ khác cùng chung hoàn cảnh.

Hi Donny,

Chị tên H và đã biết đến blog của em không nhớ chính xác là bao lâu nhưng chị nhớ khi em mới mở quán chị cũng mới vô hãng làm. Giờ chị đã làm được 23 năm ở hãng. Đây có lẽ là email thứ 3 chị gởi em. Lâu lâu lại vào đọc. 20 năm em blog thì dường như chỉ cũng biết được ít nhiều cuộc đời em với những thăng trầm. Cảm nhận nỗi lòng em về những khó khăn trong tình cảm khi làm chồng làm cha chị mạo muội chia sẻ chút. Nếu phiền lòng em thì em cứ cho chị biết và chị sẽ shut up. Con trai chị 13 tuổi và gần với con lớn của em. Là cha mẹ thời nay ai cũng đau đầu về screen time. Cứ muốn theo ý mình theo sát chúng nó, chị có cảm giác high blood pressure hoặc heart attack. Thôi thì chị để con chị tự do nhưng với điều kiện không tuột điểm, tối đi ngủ không quá trễ. Mấy giờ là trễ thì bàn bạc. Em có khuyến khích con chơi thể thao đồng đội at school không? Đôi khi chơi sport với ba cháu không hứng nhưng chơi với bạn hứng hơn. Vận động nhiều cháu sẽ mệt và ngủ sớm hơn chăng?

Chị còn vài điểm quan trọng muốn chia sẻ mong giúp em trong quan hệ gia đình. Please let chị know nếu em ok cho chị chia sẻ còn không thì cũng cho chị biết để chị dừng lại.

Một ngày không quá bận rộn và nặng nề em nhé!


Tôi trả lời

Chị H mến,

Chị đừng ngại chia sẻ những kinh nghiệm của chị về gia đình. Em viết lên những thăng trầm của mình cũng hy vọng có những ai (như chị) cùng có trải nghiệm để học hỏi thêm.

Thời gian gần đây em cũng làm như chị cho tụi nó thoải mái hơn miễn học hành không bị ảnh hưởng. Thằng lớn tuy cũng mê chơi games lắm nhưng biết nghe lời khi bảo đến giờ phải đi ngủ. Thằng thứ ba với thằng út hơi cằn nhằn một chút nhưng cũng nghe lời. Thằng thứ nhì (11 tuổi) mới nhức đầu. Bảo nó ngưng thì nó nói cho 5 phút nữa để nó chơi xong. 15 phút sau nó vẫn không rời máy. Nói nhỏ nhẹ thì không nghe. La nó thì nó cự lại. Không đánh đập thì nó đâu biết sợ. Chỉ còn cách cấm nó chơi, nó mới chịu xuống nước. Lần nào cũng vậy mà nó vẫn tánh nào tật nấy. Nó rất là có khiếu thể thao nhưng nó thà ở nhà chơi chứ không chịu ra ngoài. Em cũng muốn tụi nó tham gia thể thao ở trong trường với bạn bè nhưng hai thằng lớn không chịu.

Thằng thứ nhì không thể kiềm chế được cảm xúc của nó. Nghe hai mẹ con nó cãi lộn với nhau mà em xót ruột. Nhưng cơn giận của nó chỉ trong vài phút. Khi nó dịu lại thì nó biết lỗi. Vợ chồng em phải giữ kiên nhẫn với nó đồng thời tìm cách để giúp nó kiểm soát lại cảm xúc của nó. Có hỏi thăm cô giáo của nó thì họ nói nó rất ngoan ở trong trường. Chỉ thỉnh thoảng giận dữ một tí. Tụi em cũng đang nói chuyện với counselor của nó để tìm cách giúp đỡ cho nó.

Rất cám ơn chị bỏ thời gian viết thư cho em. Chúc chị và gia đình vui vẻ.


Donny Trương

Chị đáp lại:

Donny mến,

Con trai chị lúc trước 13t cũng gặp khó khăn trong việc kiểm soát cảm xúc. Hầu như ngày nào đi học về cũng có vấn đề với bạn bè hoặc thầy cô. Lạ lắm, khi bước vô 13 nó calm hẳn ra và nói với chị là nó bớt để những chuyện đó làm ảnh hưởng. Hy vọng với sự quan tâm giúp đỡ của vợ chồng em cùng counselor, bước vô tuổi teen con em calm bớt.

However, vấn đề mê game thì không tự thay đổi đâu. Em có thử tâm sự “man to man” với cháu xem. Nói thật với cháu nổi khó khăn khi một bên biết phải ngăn cháu chơi game quá nhiều vì sự độc hại và đó là việc với trách nhiệm là cha, em phải làm. Một bên là em không biết cách để thực hiện trách nhiệm đó mà không bị coi là độc tài trong mắt cháu. Đâu có trường dạy làm cha mẹ. Hãy tha thiết nói với cháu hãy chỉ cho em cách nào đây. Thật sự tâm sự với cháu nha em: nhẹ nhàng, bình tĩnh nhưng chạm tới vấn đề. Đôi khi mình gắt gỏng hay lên giọng without knowing that we are doing it. Nên khi nói chuyện với cháu, em không chỉ cần focus on phản ứng của cháu không mà còn phải aware chính cảm xúc và hành động của chính mình em nhé.

Khi yên vui thì không sao, những khi dầu sôi lửa bỏng (emotionally), giữ được bình tĩnh là mấu chốt đó em, dù người đối diện là ai: spouse, children…

Làm sao để giữ bình tĩnh? Chị sẽ chia sẻ lần sau nha.

Chị H

Chị viết tiếp:

Donny mến,

Chị không phải chuyên gia chi cả, chỉ muốn chia sẻ kinh nghiệm chính mình. Chị nhớ những ngày còn nuôi con nhỏ, có những lần dỗ hoài mà con không chịu ngủ. Lúc đầu hơi bực, dần dần chị cảm nhận sự lớn dần của bực thành tức giận và như cái máy chị đưa tay đánh vào đít con và cùng lúc buông câu mắng con hư, lì hay đại loại như vậy. Một hai lần xảy ra như vậy chị tự hỏi wait a minute mình đánh 1 đứa bé vài tháng tuổi vì cái gì: dạy dỗ nó ư? Không, đó là vì mình mất kiểm soát chính mình; đó là do không biết cách gì khác hơn; đó là vì mình đã từng bị như vậy v.v. Kể từ đó chị bắt để ý quan sát cảm giác, suy tư của chính mình khi mình đang tương tác với con. Một guru đã ví sự “self observe” đó như khi mình lái xe với người khác trong xe. Mình vẫn có thể tập trung có 1 cuộc nói chuyện nhưng in the back of our mind, mình vẫn biết đang ở đâu, cần lái theo hướng nào. Khi chị để ý hơn khi ở gần con, tương tác của chị bớt out of sự nóng giận nhất thời mà đưa tới lời nói hay hành động đáng tiếc. Mọi thứ không hoàn hảo đâu, chị vẫn còn những lúc nóng giận nhưng chị biết kềm chế: bước qua phòng khác, ngưng cuộc nói chuyện v.v.

Quan sát chính mình chị thấy mình nóng giận hay bực mình đều vì cái đang xảy ra không như ý mình muốn. Khi mình làm bất cứ gì, nhân danh bất cứ gì, tất cả là vì theo ý muốn của mình. Khi thật sự nhận ra điều đó rồi trong mọi hoàn cảnh bất như ý nào em cũng sẽ thấy sự nóng giận bớt vài knot. Chị nhận ra mình cũng như ai và ai cũng như mình. Như con trai em dù là nhỏ nhưng bé cũng không thích cảm giác làm ba mẹ thất vọng. Như vợ em cũng muốn được em hiểu và cảm thông hơn. Khi em hiểu chính em, em sẽ hiểu mọi người xung quanh hơn. Khi hiểu thì tương tác cũng sẽ theo hướng tốt hơn. Lời thiền sư Thích Từ Thông : rễ có tốt thì cành lá mới sum xuê.

Khi gặp nhiều khổ tâm trong cuộc sống chị đã tìm đến những chia sẻ của thiền sư Nhất Hạnh, Thích Từ Thông và mới nhất là cha Anthony De Mello. Dù là tôn giáo khác, lời dạy của họ đều hướng tới self aware , chánh niệm. Lời dạy của cha chị thấy thực tế, gần gủi với đời sống chị em mình. Nếu em thấy những điều chị nói có chút gì có lý, em hãy đọc hay nghe sách Awareness.

Chị viết không hay, và hy vọng em tìm hiểu thử sự chia sẻ của cha để tự đánh giá lấy.

Chị H

Lời cảm ơn của tôi:

Chị H mến,

Cám ơn những lời chia sẻ của chị. Gần đây em cố gắng nói chuyện với nó nhiều hơn và dành thời gian với nó. Tụi em đang đi ski ở Vermont. Nó với em cùng ngủ sofa nên cũng tâm sự với nhau. Thấy nó cũng ngoan ngoãn. Em cũng an tâm.

Làm cha mẹ bây giờ cần sự nhẫn nại. Hy vọng mọi chuyện sẽ suôn sẻ. Có điều gì chị muốn góp ý xin viết cho em. Em cũng forward những ý kiến của chị đến vợ em đọc và tham khảo thêm.

Rất cám ơn chị,

Donny Truong

Dan’s Academic Progress

Last month, I wrote the follow message to Dan’s teachers:

Dear Ms. B and Ms. B

I hope you are doing well.

Since we didn’t get a chance for a teacher-parent conference last fall, my wife and I would like to touch base with you on our son Dan. How has he been performing in school? How is he doing socially?

Based on the progress reports sent home along with your feedback, Dan still needs to improve in certain areas. When Dan received his communicator award, we were proud of him. He didn’t explain to us how he earned it, but he said that Ms. B nominated him. The communicator award had us wondering how he is doing socially at school. At home, he has been less communicative. He also had a few outbursts, in which he could not control his emotion.

We would like to get him all the support he needs and we would like to start with his teachers who he interacts with everyday.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Donny Truong

Ms. B, his Spanish teacher, replied:

Hi, Mr. Truong,

Thank you for your message and for checking in. As I noted on Dan’s interim for the third quarter, he needs to improve academically in math. He tends to rush through his work and has not performed well on math assessments. Currently he is in a small group for remediation that meets during our afternoon Roar block twice weekly; we are working on fractions (addition and subtraction, and also multiplication of a fraction by a whole number). Dan is in this group with two other students, so it is a nice size for getting some extra help. Dan seems to enjoy being in the group so far. Dan also really seems to enjoy math, and he does self-advocate if he needs help, which is great. I am hopeful that the extra help in a small group will also help to boost his confidence in himself with regards to math.

In my classroom occasionally Dan has loud outbursts, but not often. He is well liked by his classmates and works well with others in the class, both in partners and in small groups. He does need redirection at times, as he can easily become distracted. I will continue to work with Dan and encourage him to slow down when completing his work. As a general rule, I try to emphasize the positive in my classroom, and Dan responds well to both the positives and to the times when I might need to correct/redirect him. He is a very sweet and conscientious young man who strives to do well. He does need reminders sometimes about talking, rather than working on the task at hand.

I hope that the above gives you a good idea of how Dan is doing/working in my classroom. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out. Sending warm regards to your family, with a special hello to Dao. Take care, and have a nice night.

Kind regards,

Ms. B


Monday afternoon I picked up Đán and Xuân after school. On our way to their piano lessons, Xuân kept asking me if I could buy him two Robux gift cards to give to his friends. I thought he wanted to do something nice for his friends; therefore, I didn’t see any issue. I told him to talk to his mom because she would know more about those things.

At dinner, he brought up the gift cards again to me and my wife. She told him “no,” except for special occasions such as birthdays. Xuân didn’t give us any reasons for the gift cards. He dropped the subject and we didn’t think much about it.

Before bedtime, he confessed to me that he dared a girl in his class to kiss him on his cheek. Even though the girl didn’t do it, the two boys told him that they would tell on him unless he gives them Robux gift cards. Xuân was afraid that they would snitch on him; therefore, he kept asking us for the gift cards.

My wife and I talked to him about it. We thanked him for telling us about the incident. We advised him to talk to his teacher, but he wanted me to communicate with her first. I couldn’t believe he was being blackmailed. He’s only in first grade.

Update from his teacher:

Good afternoon Truong Family,

Thank you again for letting me know about this incident. After talking to Xuan and the other classmates involved, both students have apologized to Xuan. As a result of our conversation, we agreed that our families will buy us the toys that we want, not our classmates.

Thank you for your support.

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.

An Appreciation to the Hùng Vương Cub Scouts

Dear all,

I concurred with everyone’s feedback. It was like a huge family gathering without the dramas. Mad kudos to all the leaders, the parents, and especially the kids—without them, we would not have been together in one room. I hope no one got sick.

I have a small suggestion to some of the parents, especially the fathers, to talk to your doctor about sleep apnea and sleep test. We had the entire orchestra playing during the night. I have sleep apnea myself and I brought the CPAP machine with me. It really helped with the music playing.

Chị K, anh T, S, and O, welcome to the Hung Vuong Family (not the Thang Long Family) LOL!