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In her beautiful, heartrending memoir, Talusan shares her story of growing up as an immigrant from the Philippines, discloses her struggles with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, and reveals her darkest family secret. As an immigrant myself, I can relate to her experience being bullied and singled out. As a father, I sympathize her yearning to be a mother. As a man, I have upmost respect for her resiliency for overcoming a disturbing family betrayal. Talusan’s prose is excellent. A must-read immigrant memoir.
I am still struggling between freedom and structure. On one hand, I would like you to have the freedom to do whatever you want. On the other hand, I also need some structures, especially with Đạo and Đán. Every time you punch and kick each other, I feel the pain too. Should I step in to stop the fight or should I let you hurt each other until you figure out yourself? As a father, I find it too hard to stand and watch or to look away. My intervention doesn’t seem to get into your head. It rages me to see you repeat again and again as if my words have no meaning.
From the way you threw tantrums in public and the way you ignored your mom’s and my words continue to irritate me. I told you again and again, but nothing stuck. I had been hard on you lately and I am regretting it. So I am going to try the opposite direction. I am going to give you as much freedom as I can. As long as you don’t harm Xuân and Vương, I will trust you to make your own choice.
If you don’t want to read, I won’t make you. If you hate Taekwondo, you can quit. If you don’t want to take swimming lessons, you can stop. If you want iPad all the time, I won’t stop you. If you don’t want to take a bath, that’s fine. If you don’t want to brush your teeth, that’s on you. If you don’t want to eat, stay hungry.
I’ll do all I can to refrain from yelling at you or punishing you. I won’t cautious you when you fall, but I will be there for you when you get hurt. I won’t tell you what to do unless you ask for my advice. I won’t stop you loving you, but I will stop restraining you.
I had been wrong all along about how to love you. I had been over-protective. I worried too much about your behavior. I expected too high from you. I am ready to let go of who I want you to be and let you be who you want to be. By not reigning you in, I hope that you’ll soar instead of fall. Even if you fall, I’ll be there to pick you up.
Everyone makes mistakes. I made countless of mistakes in my life and being a parent is one of them. I hope that you will forgive me. My intention had been to be good to you. I wanted to give you a father-and-son relationship that I didn’t have. I am not blaming my dad for my mistakes. I am on a good term with him now. I don’t hold any grudges from him anymore. I am a grown man now and I am responsible for my own actions. If I fail you, it’s all on me—not your mom, not my dad.
I am struggling with my own conscience. I thought I would be a good parent, but I am not. I hope it is not too late to make the change. I am grateful that I have you. I thank your mother and the man above everyday for giving me four healthy, energetic boys. I know people who would love to have one kid, but they can’t. I know parents who don’t have the time to be with their kids everyday; therefore, I should not take our precious time together for granted. I love you four from the bottom of my heart.
During our family reunion, we had an intriguing discussion about our profession while enjoying a bottle of Don Julio. My wife’s aunt said that she had worked for her company over 30 years and that she would never take on the lead role. As a minority woman who is in her 50s and isn’t fluent in English, she rather stayed in the technical position than being a leader. My cousins agreed with her perspective. To them, a leader has to have perfect English and the ability to bullshit. As Vietnamese, we were not trained for those leadership roles. She went as far as criticizing the way we raise our kids different than the way white people raise their kids to prepare them to be future leaders.
I completely disagree that leaders have to have perfect English. For example, Ángel Cabrera is the president of George Mason University and he speaks with an accent. I am director of design and web services at Scalia Law School and I don’t speak perfect English either. As leaders, the way you communicate is more important than your accent. Yes, I have seen leaders who bullshitted their way through, but you can smell them miles away. I have no respect for those leaders. For me, leaders don’t have to have in-depth technical skills, but they need to have a vision and enough technical knowledge to understand what is possible and what’s not. Because I have technical background the people who answer to me can’t bullshit me. I understand what’s possible and how to accomplish it. Likewise, the people above me respect not just my leadership skills, but also my technical skills.
As for parenting skills, I did not understand the comparison between my cousin whose wife is Jewish and us (two Vietnamese parents). They have one boy. We have four. Of course, we can’t spend all of our time on one kid. I found her reasoning to be laughable and somewhat offensive. I don’t mind her criticizing our parenting skills, but putting down our son is hurtful.
It is time for us Vietnamese to stop using our language barrier as a clutch. We need to get over it. In fact, we should use it to our advantage. We can speak both languages. We bring a diverse perspective into the team. Let’s take on more leadership roles than simple be led.
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.
On the homepage of my blog, I am combining Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Day” with David Jonathan Ross’s “Font of the Month Club.” The idea is for me and you to learn a new word a day if we come to this site everyday. Thanks to RSS Feed, I can get the word of the day to display on my site automatically and easily. Since WordPress already has an RSS built-in function, I just need the following code to get the word:
< ?php include_once(ABSPATH.WPINC.'/rss.php');
wp_rss('https://www.merriam-webster.com/wotd/feed/rss2', 1); ?>
As for the typeface, I want to take advantage of my membership of the “Font of the Month Club.” I can’t wait for August’s font in three more days.
Netflix’s latest documentary by Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer examines the use of private date from Cambridge Analytica through Facebook to influence the outcome of 2016 election as well as Brexit. If you haven’t deleted your Facebook, you might want to change your mind after watching this film.
In a small hamlet in New York called Fishs Eddy, forty family members with ages ranging from 10-month to eighty-something-year-old gathered from Mexico, Toronto, China, Texas, New Jersey, and Virginia just to be together for an entire week. I am still in awe with the effort to bring a dynamic superfamily under one roof. Thanks to the organizers, the cooks, the dish cleaners, the trash collectors, and everyone who made this special occasion filled with food, drinks, joy, and love.
Food brought people together. From home-cook meals to instant noodles to fruits and vegetables to hotdogs and hamburgers to snacks and sweets, we never ran out of options to eat. Our stomach was only our limitation. No matter what age group we were hanging out in, meal times were bonding times. Everyone came together to enjoy excellent dishes prepared with love and collaboration. I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain. I managed to burn the delicious flans when I was asked to keep an eye on the oven. I fell asleep after many shots of Patrón.
Drinking was undoubtedly one of my personal favorite activities at the reunion. After a long day of babysitting the kids, playing with them in the pool, and taking care of their meals and baths, drinking was my way to relax and to connect with the cousins in my age group. Between the cousins, we tackled a wide range of issues including marriage, parenting, religion, abortion, gun, and “the book.” Before the reunion, I told myself to steer away from politics and sensitive subjects, but when drinks flowed in, words flew out. I was glad that we were able to be honest and respectful to each other. We agreed to disagree. I learned from different perspectives. For example, anh Quý and I had many opposing views, but I deeply admired his reasoning, articulation, and kindness. I trusted him and appreciated his openness. I wish uncle Bích was still with us to be part of the conversation.
As for the aunts and uncles, they were still in good health and willing to travel to be with their siblings, children, and grandchildren. The bond between them was stronger than ever. They were the anchor that keeps the reunion going. Of course, we didn’t forget uncle Thịnh who left us two years ago during the reunion. Rest in peace, uncle Thịnh and uncle Bích.
As for the kids, they bonded over video game, poker, Mahjong, Netflix, and snacks. They did not seem to mind not doing much outdoor activities as long as they had their digital devices. They had changed drastically over the years. I miss the good old days of the kids performing, dancing, and singing in front of the family. For entertainment, highlights were Đạo performed a few tunes on his viola while Xuân and Alex got their groove on.
Other than a minor collision, in which a deer ran into aunt Bé’s rental car, the 2019 family reunion was unforgettable. Everyone was eager and excited to see each other again and to meet the newest addition (baby Vương) to the family. A week was just enough time for us to bond without getting on each other’s nerves. Driving back home after an eventful week, I was exhausted. On top of that, the combination of hard liquor and sleep deprivation made my mood sentimental. I already missed our family. I can’t wait to see them again next year.
In the middle of the night, Đán stormed out of bed and into the bathroom. He turned on the light, urinated, turned off the light, and went back to bed without flushing. I went to check and didn’t see any urine in the toilet. He pissed into the trash can instead. Unbelievable!
As our week-long family reunion winding down, I wanted a short, enlightening read. Fred Rogers’s priceless collection of wise words fit the mood. Whether on love, respect, friendship, or difficult time, his messages were filled generosity, kindness, altruism, compassion, sympathy, and empathy. On parenting, he reminds us to think of the children first:
If you ever have anything to do with their entertainment, their food, their toys, their custody, their childcare, their health care, their education – listen to the children, learn about them, learn from them. Think of the children first.
On the meaning of peace, Rogers’s definition is simply powerful: “Peace means far more than the opposite of war!”