Đán’s Reading Progress

Last night Đán reached page 100 in Let’s Read. He is finally getting the hang of sounding out the letters and recognizing the words. He reads a bit faster and he feels more confidence. I took the book with us on our vacation and he read five to six pages each day with me.

In retrospect, I was a bit too hard on him. I was anxious, frustrated, and impatience. I thought he had a problem with reading based on what I had experienced with Đạo. I expected too much from him. I thought we were not going revisit Let’s Read because he seemed to hate it, but it still turns out to be a great book for learning to read.

I don’t remember how far Đạo had read, but we stopped because he could read on his own. Đán is not a bookworm; therefore, I will continue to read with him until he can read on his own.

I am very happy with the progress he has made. I should have been more patience with him. I feel guilty and proud at the same time.

My Boys

On Friday, January 4, 2019, Vương laughed out loud for the first time. He was so cute. I am so glad and bless to see that is happy and healthy. He put on a smile every time we talked to him. All of his older brothers love him. Đán always wanted to hold his baby brother.

It is so nice to have four kids even though things could get chaotic at times. Too much energy. Too much screaming. Too much playing. Đán gives us headache the most. He has changed so much. He constantly does things that irritate everyone. I am hoping this stage will pass soon. Because when he is not misbehaved, he is such a lovely kid.

Đạo has his issues too, but he listens better. He is helping out whenever I ask him too. For the most part, he is doing great.

Xuân is going through his terrible-three phrase a bit early. The other day, I asked him to move from the edge of the bed to center of the bed, he replied to me, “Daddy, you don’t tell me what to do.” He uses his words eloquently for a a two-year-old. He already argues with his older brothers using words they said to him. He drives them nuts.

Xuân clings on too much a lot these days. He holds me and gives me kisses all the time. Every time he makes me mad, he would ask, “Are you happy?” Of course, I am very happy inside, but I just don’t want him to know. I love this charming kid.

Reading with Xuân

Dad: Congratulations! Today is your…
Xuân: day.
Dad: You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and…
Xuân: away!
Dad: You have brains in your…
Xuân: shoes.

I’ve always learned something new every time I read with my kids.

Fostering Empathy

Jane E. Brody provides some good tips on “How to Foster Empathy in Children:”

Equally important is for parents to demonstrate empathy with their own children by acknowledging their concerns and feelings and recognizing their need for security. For example, she said, “When a child is fearful of a dog, instead of saying ‘Don’t be afraid, he won’t bite you,’ say ‘Are you scared of the dog? What scares you?’ This validates the child’s fears rather than negating them.”

At the same time, Dr. Riess said, parents should not overreact by being intolerant of “a single second of unhappiness in their child’s life” lest such misguided empathy deprive the child of developing the grit, perseverance and resilience that is essential to a successful life.

Parents can talk to their children about other people’s feelings. If a child breaks another child’s toy, Dr. Riess suggests that instead of saying “‘Why did you do that? That was bad,’ say ‘Sara is sad because you broke her toy. What can we do to make up for that?’ which leaves the door open for an apology.”

Also helpful is to “validate your child’s difficult emotions instead of being judgmental,” she said. “If the child says ‘I hate Tommy,’ rather than say it’s wrong to hate, ask what makes the child feel that way. Explore what’s behind the feelings, the back story.”

For very young children, stuffed animals or puppets can be used to help them act out different stories, Dr. Riess suggested.

Con Vợ

Chủ nhật vừa rồi tôi đi dự tiệc võ đường để xem hai thằng con biểu diễn. Dĩ nhiên người Việt lúc nào cũng giờ dây thung. Ngồi cùng bàn với một người phụ huynh nên cũng xã giao qua lại. Anh ấy hỏi tôi mấy đứa con tôi cũng hỏi lại anh mấy đứa. Anh cho biết một thằng lớn hai mươi mấy tuổi, thằng mười hai tuổi là con của bà xã, và thằng út năm tuổi.

Tuy mới nói chuyện lần đầu mà anh đã cho tôi biết cặn kẽ rằng thằng đó là con của vợ chứ không phải con của anh ta. Tuy người Việt sống ở nước Mỹ nhưng chúng ta vẫn còn văn hoá Việt. Dường như với người Mỹ con nào cũng là con cả. Họ không phân biệt con anh, con em, hoặc con chúng ta. Dĩ nhiên chừng nào thân thiết thì họ mới nói.

Tôi cũng thế nếu tôi trong trường hợp đó. Chỉ nghĩ đến phải nói cho mẹ là cô ta đã có con thì mẹ sẽ buồn và không chấp nhận. Rồi mình có thật sự thương yêu con ghẻ như con ruột không? Đều đó tôi cũng không dám chắc. Bây giờ con ruột nó lì lợm tôi cũng đã phát điên rồi huống chi không phải con mình.

Thôi thì xem như may mắn mình không bị nằm trong hoàn cảnh đó. Cũng có lẽ tôi không phải là một người đàn ông rộng lượng như những người đàn ông khác. Hoặc cũng có thể vì có bốn thằng tôi đã quá sợ rồi.

The Dark Side of YouTube for Kids

James Bridle discovers horrific videos targeting children for page views. He warns:

Children’s cartoons getting assaulted, getting killed, weird pranks that actually genuinely terrify children. What you have is software pulling in all of these different influences to automatically generate kids’ worst nightmares. And this stuff really, really does affect small children. Parents report their children being traumatized, becoming afraid of the dark, becoming afraid of their favorite cartoon characters. If you take one thing away from this, it’s that if you have small children, keep them the hell away from YouTube.

Yes, watch his TED talk and keep your kids the hell away from YouTube.

Học tiếng Việt

Ngày xưa mới qua Mỹ tôi nghe nhạc rap để học tiếng Anh. Giờ đây tôi cho mấy thằng nhỏ nghe rap Việt để nó học tiếng Việt. Mấy hôm nay nghe bài “They Said” của Bin Z có câu: “Nghe nói em đẹp tự nhiên không có sửa hả? / Nghe nói trai Sài Gòn không có cửa hả?”

Đán nói nó hiểu hai câu và dịch lại tiếng Anh như sau: “That means a beautiful girl has no milk and a boy has no door.”

My Seven Years Old

Đán will turn seven on Thursday. We’re planning on taking him to his favorite sushi buffet to celebrate. Tonight he misbehaved; therefore, I told him that we will cancel the celebration if he doesn’t get his act together. He responded, “You hate me and you think I am fucked.” His words cut through me like a knife. I told him I was hurt and furious. I was holding Vương in my arms so I yelled at him and told him to get out of my room.

Đán’s behavior has changed drastically over the last year. At school, he failed to follow his teachers’ instructions. At home, he ignored our words. What irritated the heck out me was that he did what we asked him not to do. His misbehaves drove me nuts. I am extremely frustrated, but I can’t turn him away. I am working hard to bring out his charmness, selflessness, and hilariousness. He has those qualities in him, but he chose not to use them.

The failure is on me. I let my emotion takes over when I get furious and frustrated. Instead of spanking or yelling, I just shut myself down and out.

Snowed In

Yesterday we had a little bit of snow and yet all schools, including George Mason, were closed. We ended up spending time together as a family.

The boys helped me shoveled the snow. We read books, played games, ate, napped, and took turn to hold the little baby. We had a good time. Yelling and shouting were inevitable, but they were minor. They two older boys behaved well so I gave them some iPad time.

I really love these simple joys. We don’t have to do much. Just being presence is good enough. The great thing with kids is that I can easily express my love to them. When I was growing up, my dad was hardly home to spend time with me. I was always with my mom, but she also had to make money. When we came to the States, she did not go to work for a while and yet she spent most of her days in the kitchen. She was there but not presence. In my childhood, love was never expressed. My mom and dad never said they love me, and never gave me a hug or a kiss. Of course, they loved me. They just never showed.

With my kids, I have no problem showing my love. These days, I take all three of them to school and daycare. After crossing the street to their school, I always give Đạo and Đán a hug, a kiss, and “I love you” before sending them off. The same with Xuân, but he always the first one that put out his arms for a hug and said, “Daddy give me a kiss.” He is such a sweet little fellow.

While it is easy to express love to my kids, even when they made you mad as hell, it is a bit harder with my wife. It is something I need to work on.

Về với thiên nhiên

Hôm qua một ngày chủ nhật thật đẹp. Sáng cả nhà đi thăm mộ ông ngoại tụi nhỏ. Buổi trưa, tôi đưa ba thằng lớn đi nhún ở Sky Zone. Ba giờ chiều, tôi đưa chúng nó đến một công viên và chúng tôi đã đi vào một khu rừng nhỏ.

Trời mùa thu lá vàng rụng cả khu rừng. Xung quanh chỉ cây cối, vài chú sóc và nai. Ôi trở lại với thiên nhiên thật tuyệt vời. Không khí trong lành. Khung cảnh yên lặng. Chỉ có bốn cha con đi lạc vào khu rừng hiu quạnh. Quên đi thế giới hiện đại. Không cần đến iPad.

Ba thằng con cũng rất thích thú cùng nhau khám phá thiên nhiên. Chỉ hai tiếng đồng hồ, chúng tôi có được những giây phút bên nhau thật êm dịu và gắn bó. Tôi thích những giây phút đó hơn là ngồi ở nhà chìm đắm vào những màn ảnh nhỏ.