Thanks for the Great Camping Trip

Dear LDHV Cub Families,

I concurred that phở gà was off the hook. Thanks to everyone who lent a hand in making all the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious dishes.

Big props to all the leaders for creating all the wonderful experiences for the kids as well as unforgettable memories for the parents. Your dedication and commitment to the kids are appreciated.

Most important of all, kudos to all the kiddos. Without their presence and participation, the parents wouldn’t have the opportunity to bond. I am one of the younger parents, but I have been with the Cubs the longest. Many parents have moved on to the Troops, but I am still here—and will be here for a while. My advice to the new parents is to take advantage of the activities while your kids are still Cubbies—unless you have tons of kids like I do.

Have a great day and enjoy your spring break. We’ll be in Vermont skiing and snowboarding to Lệ Quyên’s ballad remixes. LOL!

Yours truly,
Donny Trương

Responding to Đạo’s Post

Đạo uses his blog to vent his frustrations. I appreciate and encourage that since I can’t get much out of him when we talk face to face.

Recently I wanted to implement time-limit programs on their devices, especially Đạo’s and Đán’s. I don’t want to control what they do, but I want them to manage their time. Without time limitations, they don’t stop. Even when his mom and I asked them to turn off and go to bed, they still linger on after many hours of usage.

They have 24 hours a day. At least 8 hours are reserved for sleeping. The rest of the hours need to be balanced out with off-screen activities, and not just phone and PC. They need to be able to switch their minds off.

When we went to Stowe for a week, Đán wanted to go home on the first day as we took the first chair lift to the top of the mountain. He hadn’t even started to snowboard yet. We paid all this money and drove almost 12 hours so we could have a nice ski trip together. Yet all he could think about was spending time on his PC? That just made me want to take away their devices for good.

Đạo goes everywhere with his phone and spends hours on it, even when he uses the bathroom. He used to read voraciously. Now I hardly see him hold a book. It breaks my heart. He used to be socialized. He could talk to anyone. Last week, I took him and Đán to a seafood buffet with my friends and their kids. All they did was glued to their phones even though I asked them to put them away and talked.

As for Đạo’s grades, my wife has to constantly check his work, remind him to do his assignments, and retake his tests. If he is allowed to retake his tests, he should not get anything below a B. In fact, he should be able to get all A’s. The issue is that he isn’t being on top of his school work. They aren’t his priority. Digital screens take over his academics.

We had a discussion on time limitation and they both strongly opposed it. I made them a deal. I won’t put on a time limitation. I won’t ask them to turn off their devices. I asked my wife not to remind them about their assignments unless they come and ask for help. I want to give them an opportunity to prove themselves that they can manage their time. If the next quarter report comes in, Ðạo gets below a 3.5 GPA and Đán gets more than five 2’s, their devices will be gone for the entire quarter. Freedom comes with responsibility.

Hitting Close to Home

As a father, my constant concerns, worries, and fears on digital addiction, depression, and self-destruction are hitting close to home. They are happening around me to the people I know.

Talking about the danger of digital addiction to my kids isn’t sinking in. They can’t pull themselves away from their screens. Their brains aren’t mature enough to walk away. I can’t help them if they can’t help themselves.

I am so tired of repeating myself. My words don’t mean a thing. I want to just let them do whatever they want with their lives. At work, I present the issues. If they don’t want to fix the issues then they are no longer my problems. My kids are my responsibilities. They stress me out, but I can’t stop worrying. My mind is exhausted by the end of the day.

I am not sure what to do. Continuing to be a pain-in-the-ass parent or preparing for the worst? I really don’t want them to go down the wrong path. Dealing with the issues now rather than facing the consequences later.

Migraine

I woke up with a bit of a migraine. I was not sure if the culprit were the beer from last night, the falling incident at the skatepark, the lack of sleep, or the combination of all of them. Still, I woke up early to take Ðạo to school.

Then I met up with Xuân’s teachers for the parent conference. I was in shock to learn that he had been struggling academically. He doesn’t understand Spanish at all. Even though I was surprised, I was not mad at him. With Đạo and Đán, I didn’t see any value in learning Spanish, especially when neither my wife and I know the language. I would rather they focus on English. If they had to study another language, why not Vietnamese?

Xuân is also struggling with math, writing, and reading. He is having a hard time staying focused. He is easily distracted. He scored low his reading assessment.

I felt so guilty. I assumed he had been doing good. His behavior had been much better this year; therefore, I hadn’t heard anything from his teachers. While his social skills had improved, his learning had not.

After the meeting, my migraine dialed up a knot. Had going to the skatepark taken away his school work? I need to spent more time helping with his schoolwork.

I took my sister and her daughter to the Great Fall Park. The weather was beautiful. The scenes were stunning, but I couldn’t get Xuân off my mind.

By the time we got back home, my migraine kicked in. I had to pop in an Aleve and went for a late nap. I slept for a bit and my migraine had subsided.

Vợ vắng nhà

Tháng trước vợ hỏi tôi làm tài xế đưa mẹ và chị vợ qua Maine chơi vài ngày cùng với mấy bác và anh họ từ Texas bay qua. Nghe nói tôm hùm ở Maine ngon lắm tôi cũng muốn thử cho biết. Tôi đồng ý nhưng nghĩ lại để vợ ở nhà một mình trông bốn thằng con cũng tội.

Tôi đề nghị vợ đi chơi với gia đình. Vợ ít có dịp đi chơi riêng không có chồng con để được thư giãn. Vợ còn lưỡng lự không biết có nên đi không thì tôi khuyến khích vợ nên đi để dành thời gian với mẹ mình. Ngày nào còn có mẹ thì hãy quý trọng đừng bỏ lỡ cơ hội. Khi không còn mẹ nữa, tôi mới cảm nhận được sự mất mát trong cuộc đời. Tôi không vợ phải tiếc nuối về sau. Chắc nghe những lời nói đó nên vợ chịu đi.

Sẵn dịp tôi cũng muốn dành thời gian riêng với bốn thằng con. Đồng thời cũng muốn thử sức mình có thể tự chăm sóc tụi nhỏ lúc không có vợ. Lúc nào tôi cũng ỷ lại có vợ chăm nom cho đàn con. Ba thằng lớn tôi không ngại, chỉ hơi lo thằng út vì nó rất gần với mẹ.

Sáng thứ Tư, vợ, mẹ, và chị đi sớm ra phi trường lúc mấy đứa nhỏ vẫn còn đang ngủ. Bảy giờ tôi dậy đưa thằng Đạo đi học. Trở về tôi gọi ba thằng còn lại dậy đi ra Dunkin Donuts ăn sáng. Lúc đến trường , tôi dặn Đán và Xuân dắt tay Vương vào cửa để nó đừng khóc.

Tôi trở về nhà làm việc. Giờ nghỉ, tôi thu dọn lại nhà cửa một tí cho ngăn nắp. Đến trưa, tôi chạy đến trường ăn với Vương. Nó rất mừng thấy tôi đến. Nó ngồi ăn thật là dễ thương. Nó ăn xong trở về lớp, tôi nén lại cafeteria để gặp Xuân. Hết giờ trưa, tôi trở về nhà tiếp tục công việc cho đến chiều đi rước bọn nó.

Lúc đón Vương, thấy mặt nó hơi buồn chứ không vui như lúc ăn trưa. Nó ôm lấy tôi khóc sướt mướt và nói rằng, “Con nhớ mẹ.” Tôi ôm nó vào lòng và an ủi. May là mấy đứa bạn của Đán thấy vậy cũng đến high-five, bắt tay, và ôm nên nó cũng không còn khóc nữa.

Sau đó mấy cha con đi skatepark trượt gần hai tiếng đồng hồ. Xuân vượt qua được nỗi sợ hãi của nó và đã trượt scooter từ trên đỉnh cao xuống. Đến sáu giờ, cả nhà đi ăn tối. Đán muốn sushi buffet. Giá cũng khá đắt nhưng thôi kệ. Đáng tiếc rằng thức ăn cũng không ngon lắm hay tôi đã quá mệt nên ăn không thấy ngon.

Về nhà tắm rửa cho tụi nó chơi game một chút rồi đi ngủ. Ngày hôm sau thời khóa biểu cũng tương tựa. Chỉ khác là chiều về nhà ăn tối vì ăn ở ngoài tốn kém quá. Đạo và Đán vào bếp làm chảo Tteokbokki.

Hôm nay thứ Sáu Vương được đi field trip ở nông trại Cox nên tôi cũng lấy một ngày nghỉ làm để đi chơi với nó. Chiều nay không đi skatepark vì phải đi hướng đạo. Ngày mai mẹ bọn nó trở về. Bốn ngày trôi qua thật nhanh. Hy vọng vợ có được những giây phút nhẹ nhàng và thư giãn.

Done Deal

As usual, I drove Đán and Xuân to their weekly private piano lessons. Instead of dropping by the skatepark afterwards, we went straight to my sister-in-law’s house to celebrate her mother-in-law’s 88th birthday.

After we sang “Happy Birthday” and cut the cake, I asked Đán and Xuân to play their latest song they had been practicing for months. They both declined to play even though they just practiced with their teacher just half an hour ago preparing for their informal recital in two weeks.

Then I asked them to play any song and Đán chose “Ode to Joy.” He played it with one finger so he could get back to playing video games. They both had taken private lessons for almost two years and all one of them could play was ten seconds with one finger.

My wife and I argued over their piano lessons. She wants them to continue. I don’t see the point if they don’t give a damn. They threw tantrums every time they were asked to practice. They just wanted to get it done and over with so they could play video games. They took months to learn one song.

They have lost their interest. It is just another wasted opportunity like everything we offered them. It has been dragging for months and they are making regress instead of progress. I am done with them on this one too.

My Dancing Xuân

I always loved this clip of Xuân jamming at his friend’s birthday party. While everyone else was standing still, he got his groove on and he didn’t seem to pay attention to anything around him. The expression on his face was priceless.

For more fun clips, check out my collection of Shorts or subscribe to my YouTube channel. I post a clip every 12 hours for the entire month.

Persistence & Perseverance

I loved the clip of my four-year-old Vương trying to climb up the ramp at the skate park. Watching him climb reminding me of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” especially these lines, “If I fail, if I succeed / At least I’ll live as I believe.” I put the song and the video together to create a YouTube Short.

Sitting With My Thoughts on a Rainy Sunday Morning

The other night I asked Vương, my youngest son, who started kindergarten this year if he liked school and if he had made any friends. His response was that he didn’t like school, but he made a few friends. I asked him what he liked about school. He said the playground and went further to tell me that he just wanted to play alone at the playground, and not with friends. I reassured him that it was perfectly fine if he preferred to play alone. I was actually glad that he was comfortable with being by himself when he wanted.

His older brother, Xuân, who is in second grade, on the other hand, always needed to please others. He always wanted to be liked, and that worries me. He would get into trouble for doing things his peers find funny, but his teachers find unappropriate. I know exactly what he is going through because I spent most of my life trying to please others. It didn’t go too well for me. I want him to break the cycle.

I am at the point in my life where I don’t want to pretend to be nice. I want to be honest. I am tired of trying to please people—even the ones I loved. I have always wanted to please my wife because I was afraid she would leave me. It exposed my insecurities and weaknesses. Saying “I love you” had lost all of its meaning because it sounded pretentious. I didn’t throw the phrase out of nowhere. I wanted confirmation, but most of the time I got a silent response. Maybe it is still a taboo in Vietnamese culture to express your love verbally. Whenever I spoke to my mom in person or over the phone, I always said, “I love you” and her response was always “OK.” The last time I said “I love you” to my mom, a tear rolled down her eye as she departed this world.

Failed Father Figure

Damn, my kids use their digital devices way too much. My firstborn always glues to his phone or laptop. My second son constantly plays on his PC. My third and fourth can’t stay away from their iPads. They have no motivation to do anything else. If they go to the skatepark with me, I have to reward them with boba tea or their favorite food.

The issue is they don’t know when to stop. If I don’t ask them to turn off, they will play for hours. Even when I tell them to stop, they won’t get up until they get yelled at. It breaks my heart to see them dropping everything else and just focusing on their digital devices.

My oldest is no longer reading paper books like he used to. My second is no longer interested in playing piano. He takes months to learn one song. My third gets whiny when being asked to practice piano. My youngest doesn’t do much else.

Am I the only one who is deeply concerned? Most kids seem to do the same. When my kids get together with other kids, they spend most of their time on their devices. I get so irritated that I just don’t want to witness it.

Other parents seem to be fine with it though. Maybe I should just stop worrying and let them do whatever they want with their time and hope for the best. What else can get worse? Addiction, depression, dropout, withdrawal? As a father, I love them and want to prevent the worst, but I am failing big time. I was so naive about parenthood. I thought love would conquer everything, but love alone isn’t enough. The more I love; the more I care; the more I fail. They have sunken to the point that they can’t function without these digital devices.

My concerns, worries, anxieties have fallen on deaf ears. I hope I am dead wrong. I hope I am worrying too much. I hope I am just being paranoid. Only time will tell.

Bonjour Vietnam