Đi chơi với út

Sáng nay ba thằng lớn trở lại trường. Tôi vẫn nghỉ làm tới tuần sau. Định đi tập snowboard tiếp nhưng thời tiết đã trở ấm, hơn nữa lại mưa. Lưỡng lự không biết có nên lái xe mất một tiếng rưỡi hay không. Thôi thì quyết định không đi để rủ thằng út đi chơi. Dạo này nó ghiền xem iPad lắm nên nó không muốn đi đâu cả. Nó diện cớ trời lạnh, trời mưa, trời nắng để khỏi phải đi.

Sáng nay dụ được nó ra khỏi nhà lấy xe điện qua DC đi viện bảo tàng lịch sử thiên nhiên xem khủng long. Cũng mừng là nó chịu đi. Hai cha con ít có dịp đi chơi với nhau vì nó đeo theo mẹ nó nhiều hơn tôi. Còn tôi thì thường đi với ba thằng lớn. Thôi thì tranh thủ mấy ngày nghỉ làm dành thời gian với nó.

Thấy nó cũng thích thú đi ra ngoài mà không cần đụng đến iPad hoặc iPhone là mừng rồi. Đáng lẽ ra mấy năm nay nên cho nó đi nhà trẻ nhưng vì covid nên để nó ở nhà. Tháng Chín năm nay nó vô mẫu giáo rồi nên thôi để nó ở nhà luôn. Hy vọng đi học sẽ mở mang đầu óc nó hơn.

My Golden Child

Xuân’s Spanish teacher informed me about an incident happened at school. He and his classmate wandered around the fourth-grade area instead of going to their class. When asked what they were doing, they explained that they were lost. Xuân said that his classmate motioned him to go along; therefore, they walked around the school and they were late for class.

I spoke to Xuân immediately after school and he told me what happened. I wrote a response to his teacher:

Dear Sra. D,

Thank you for bringing the incident to our attention. We spoke to Xuan this evening and he told us that he followed his classmate’s command because his classmate would “kick my butt hard” if he didn’t. Xuan revealed that whenever he didn’t do what his classmate wanted him to do, he would kicked him on his butt. One time, his classmate kicked him and he told him to stop, but he just laughed and kicked him again.

We are quite concerned about these incidents and Xuan only told us after we brought up today’s event. Would you please talk to Xuan and his classmate to make sure these incidents won’t happen again? We fully understand if you cannot intervene in this situation and we are willing to talk to the kid’s parents to resolve the issue.

Of course, this isn’t an excuse for Xuan’s misjudgment. He needs to make better choices next time.

We appreciate your support.

Regards,
Donny Trương

His teacher took a swift action and reported back to us that she had talked to both of them. In her email, she wrote:

According to Xuan, his classmate did not say the words, ‘I will kick your butt.’, but he has done this action more than once.

I was not sure if she misread my message; therefore, I wanted to clarify:

Dear Sra. D,

Thank you for addressing the issue.

I would like to make a clarification. I did not quote Xuan’s classmate saying, “I will kick your butt,” in my previous response. I was quoting Xuan telling me, “kick my butt hard.” To put his words in context, here’s what Xuan said to me: “If I didn’t follow him, he would kick my butt hard.” It’s a minor detail, but I don’t want you to misunderstand my message.

I appreciate your swift action on this matter. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the World Cup if you’re into soccer.

Regards,
Donny Trương

I must confess. I defend Xuân more than his brothers. When he was younger, he defended himself. He would fight back when other kids attacked him, but he hasn’t done so in the past few years. Even Vương has been punching and kicking him, he just cried. I am fine with him being non-violence, but I am also kind of worried that he is not defending himself. Đạo and Đán picked on him constantly and they drove me crazy. No matter how many times I had explained to Đạo and Đán about caring and protecting their little brothers, my words seemed to go in one ear and right out the other. I yelled, punished, and banned them from their digital devices when they picked on Xuân. They are starting to get it now. Đán said, “Xuân is my golden child and we shouldn’t mess with him.” I am glad he recognized that. I love all my boys, but I have a bit more empathy toward Xuân. I don’t want people to pick on him.

Xuân’s Reading Level

I wrote to Xuân’s English teacher:

Dear Mrs. H,

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving break. I love the song, “Give Thanks,” you had written and performed. What a beautiful way to teach kids about gratitude.

I am writing to you because I am quite concerned about Xuan’s reading. He seems to be regressing in his reading level. He used to be able to sound out words with three letters, but these days he seems to have trouble reading words with three and four letters. He could barely get through a simple sentence. I am trying to help him at home, but I am not seeing any progress.

Is it normal for his age and level? Or does he seem to be behind? What do you think? Do you have any suggestions? Should he get extra help?

Thanks in advance and looking forward to hearing from you.

Regards,
Donny Trương

Maybe I am getting impatient with Xuân’s reading, but I am seeing the same patterns with Xuân and his older brother. Đán ran into similar issue where he couldn’t recognize the same word we just read a second ago. Đán can read fine now, but he only reads when he has to. I would like to help Xuân to become a better reader so he could enjoy reading since I love reading.

My wife bought The Big Book of Reading Comprehension Activities, Grade 1, by Hannah Braun M.Ed., for Xuân to learn at home. We have been going through two readings a day and Xuân seems to enjoy doing the exercises.

Xuân bought a diary book with a lock at his school book fair. I asked him to write down the Scout oath, law, motto, and outdoor code. He was struggling to remember the Scout laws, but writing them down has helped him memorized them. I am planning on helping him writing a daily journey in his journal similar to what I am doing with my blog. I am hoping to improve his writing skills as well.

Đán Turns 11

Our second born turns 11 today. He grows way too fast. He loves building PCs and playing video games on his desktop. For his birthday, we gifted him all the parts so he could build his own desktop. It is definitely a useful skill to pick up. I am proud of him for it, but he needs to balance out his priorities. His education needs to come first. He is doing the minimal just to pass. If he puts the energy and focus on school work like he does with PC and video games, he would become an excellent student.

Đán has a natural athletic ability. With a bit of bravery, he is elevating in rollerblading. He surpassed his brothers and me in blading. In the past, I could keep up with him, but not anymore. He is not even into rollerblading. He has to skate because I make him go to the skate park. If he puts his mind into it, he would have advanced even further. I am not pushing him. My only requirement is for him to get some exercise. He needs to get away from his desktop and do some outdoor activities. Đán is also an excellent snowboarder. I can’t wait to hit the terrains with him this winter.

Đán is a great kid when he wants to be. He loves his grandmother, his mom, Đạo, and Vương. For selfish reasons, he is not too fond of Xuân and he drives me to the wall. I made it clear to him that he either treated Xuân nicely or he got banned from his PC. He didn’t like me when I banned him, but I was fine with that. I don’t have any issue being a bad dad. He knows deep down, I have nothing but love for him.

National Junior Honor Society

Đạo has been invited to join the Robinson chapter of the National Junior Honor Society. Being part of the NJHS membership is an honor. He has to keep his GPA at 3.5 and above. I am proud of his achievement and his mom has also played an important role in his accomplishment. She constantly had to remind him to complete his assignments and study for his tests.

Đạo’s First Laptop

After we made the decision to returned the iPhone 12, we made a promise that if Đạo kept up his grades, we would get him a laptop. His final grades for the first quarter was good; therefore, we bought him a 15.6-in. HP touchscreen laptop. He earned it, but my hope is that he will take better responsibility for his education. His grades were decent because his mother had to remind him every single day to complete his assignments and projects. I made a deal with him that if he grades slip, I would have no problem confiscating it. Until then, enjoy the new toy, kiddo.

The Boys’ Weekend

Over the weekend I had an opportunity to experience being a single dad for the first time. Even though my wife had planned a weekend trip with her family for a while, she was still not sure if she could leave a forty-four-year-old kid taking care of her precious boys, especially her four-year-old. I reassured her that they would be fine. I won’t let them die. At least I wouldn’t starve them to death.

Truth be told, I was a bit worried about my four-year-old boy since he had not been away from his mom since birth and he still wanted to be breastfed at night. To make the transition easy, I took off work on Friday to spend time with him. We checked out Luv 2 Play. It’s a decent paid indoor playground with a small arcade section. As soon as Vương spotted his favorite dinosaur-shooting game, the rest of the playground area was useless. We managed to stay for an hour and left for the skatepark. He met another boy his age and they clicked instantly. They ran around the ramps while I bladed. When it was time for us to go to pick up Đạo, I told Vương to say goodbye to the new friend. As I bent down to pick up my phone and water bottle, I heard the boy’s mother let out a shocking sound. I didn’t know what went on, but I saw the boy’s father holding Vương’s shirt. I completely missed the incident when the boy pushed Vương down the ramp. Luckily the father grabbed a hold of him. The mother let out a sigh of relief and said to me, “It’s time for us to go. When they get tired and sleepy they started acting stupid.”

We went to pick up Đạo, then Đán and Xuân. We went back to the skatepark again because Xuân wanted to scooter with his scooter buddies. We spent about an hour at the skatepark and headed straight to H-Mart for dinner before Scouting activities. After Scouting, we went over to Tea-Do for boba tea and Street Fighter. We came home around 9:30 pm, showered, and had an instant noodle party. The boys were completely exhausted by midnight. Vương kept tossed and turned. I asked him, “What’s wrong?” He replied, “I want mama back.” I held his hand and rubbed his back until he fell asleep.

I woke up around 6:30 am on Saturday to make lunch for Đạo. He had a hiking trip with his Scout Troop. I dropped him off at 7:30 am and went back home to clean up the house a bit. Đán woke up early and jumped on his computer. I made him fold all the clothes before he could play. Then I made breakfast for the three boys. Around 10 am, we left for the skatepark in Alexandra then the huge playground in Fairlington. We stopped by Bon Chon Chicken around 1:00 pm for lunch. I texted a Scout parent to see if he and his family wanted to join us for sushi dinner. He texted me back saying he was busy, but I could come by for a beer. I brought over more Bon Chon Chicken to his house. His two daughters, around Đán’s age, were great with kids. Vương loved spending time with them. We didn’t get back home until 11 pm. The boys were once again exhausted from a full day of activities. Vương cried, “I want my mama.” Five minutes later, he fell asleep.

The boys didn’t wake up until 10 am on Sunday morning. We went to Silver Diner for brunch, a skatepark to burn off our calories, an outdoor playground, and boba tea again. We went home afterward and relaxed until my wife came home around 4 pm. We survived. I had a fantastic time with the boys. Of course, it would have been much better with her, but she needs to take a break from the boys once in a while. I definitely encourage her to take more trips to spend time for herself. She deserves it.

Power Comes with Danger

Making the upgrade from an iPhone 6 Plus to 13 Max Pro felt like I went from a Corolla to a Tesla. I should have made the upgrade sooner. Then again, I hope to keep the 13 Max Pro for at least 5 years.

After my upgrade, I signed up for a brand new phone for our first born with Verizon’s promotion: a free iPhone 12 for a new line with unlimited plan. Since both my wife and I are already on the unlimited plan, we just needed to add another line for him.

I thought a a third line would be cheaper until the bill came a few weeks later. I received all sorts of charges and his line was higher than ours. We were on the G5 Start plan and the new line required the G5 More plan. I should have known that “More” meant more money and nothing is free in corporate America.

I made a mistake by not looking at the dollar amounts when I signed up for a new line, but the bigger mistake was giving my son a powerful tool. He could access anything at his fingertips and the whole world was in his pocket. It was like handing him drugs at thirteen. I wanted him to be more independent and reliable, but he was not ready yet. I realized that I was putting him in danger and I needed to put a stop to it.

I brought up my concerns with my wife and we asked him to let us return the phone since Verizon had a 30-day trial period. We wanted him to focus on his school work, spend more time outdoors, read paper books, and do things off the screen. He was sad to return the phone, but he understood that we were not punishing him. He knew we care deeply about his well being and we love him dearly.

Speaking Spanish

Responding to Đán’s teacher about his interim report:

Dear Ms. B,

Thank you for your comments in Dan’s interim report. Last night, we talked to him about his unwillingness to speak Spanish in Spanish class. We’ve learned that his lack of confidence in Spanish has prevented him from speaking the language.

We encouraged him to do his best. All we are asking from him is to put in the effort. We’re also asking Dao, his older brother, to speak Spanish as well to give Dan more exposure to the language outside his class. Dan has promised that he will speak Spanish in class. Please keep us updated on his progress.

As for math, what is he learning and struggling with? We can’t help him with Spanish, but we can definitely help him with math. Please let us know what you are teaching in class so we can follow up with him at home.

Thanks once again for bringing up your concerns to our attention about Dan’s progress. We also appreciate your compliments. He is indeed a kind and thoughtful child. With your guidance and our collaboration, he will have a successful year.

Regards,

Donny Truong

Vương Turns 4

As the youngest boy in the family, he gets all the love and attention. Despite being home with his mom and grandmother most of the time, he isn’t shy away from meeting new friends. He is outgoing and he has such an infectious smile. He is articulate for his age. He knows exactly what he wants. He is also an independent child who likes to do things for himself without getting any help for his parents and brothers.

In contrast, he isn’t quite ready to put breastfeeding behind. He still latches at night time to get his fix. He is still potty training. He doesn’t wear a diaper until he needs to do the number 2. He would request a diaper instead of sitting on the toilet. I am sure he’ll get over these two things this year.

Now that he is 4, I can start cleaning up all the toys he no longer plays with. They have been piling up in the basement for a long time. In retrospect, I don’t see him playing with toys too much. He is a digital-screen baby. He isn’t picking up sports as fast as older brothers. He seems to like skiing. I can’t wait to hit the slopes with him this coming winter.