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Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent's Expectations

Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent's Expectations

4.7 3
by Ron Fournier

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Tyler and I inch toward the Green Room, in line with blow-dried TV anchors and stuffy columnists. He’s practicing his handshake and hello: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President.” When the couple in front of us steps forward for their


Tyler and I inch toward the Green Room, in line with blow-dried TV anchors and stuffy columnists. He’s practicing his handshake and hello: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President.” When the couple in front of us steps forward for their picture, my teenager with sky-blue eyes and a soft heart looks up at me and says, “I hope I don’t let you down, Dad.”
What kind of father raises a son to worry about embarrassing his dad? I want to tell Tyler not to worry, that he’d never let me down. That there’s nothing wrong with being different. That I actually am proud of what makes him special. But we are next in line to meet the president of the United States in a room filled with fellow strivers, and all I can think about is the real possibility that Tyler might embarrass himself. Or, God forbid, me.

LOVE THAT BOY is a uniquely personal story about the causes and costs of outsized parental expectations. What we want for our children—popularity, normalcy, achievement, genius—and what they truly need—grit, empathy, character—are explored by National Journal’s Ron Fournier, who weaves his extraordinary journey to acceptance around the latest research on childhood development and stories of other loving-but-struggling parents.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
 “This illuminating and touching book gives us the great gift of letting us know and appreciate the Asperger's world of young Tyler Fournier, who steals scenes from presidents while teaching his parents and all of us what is important in life. “
David Maraniss, Pulitzer-prize winning author of Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story

“Love That Boy captures both the fears and gifts of fatherhood and writes about it with honest, selfless clarity. This book is a joy to read, and should be required for all new dads…Really.” 
—Jim Gaffigan, Comedian and author of Dad is Fat

"American Presidents have the honor of meeting Tyler Fournier in this lovely, intimate and inspiring book by his father, which has so much to teach all parents, sons and daughters.”
—Michael Beschloss

Kirkus Reviews
A man opens up about his shortcomings as a father. Before his son was born, National Journal senior political columnist Fournier (co-author: Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business, & Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community, 2006, etc.) had a variety of expectations about what life would be like with him. They would certainly bond over sports, as the author had done with his father, and his son would be intelligent and socially well-adapted. Fournier's hopes were no different than those of millions of other parents who want their children to achieve great things, but his son, Tyler, wasn't interested in sports, he talked too loudly, and he had no sense of when he had stepped outside the boundaries of normal social conventions. It took more than a decade of this behavior before Fournier and his wife realized Tyler had Asperger's. The author began to rethink everything he knew about being a father and tried to figure out new ways to bond with Tyler. Instead of forcing more sports on his son, Fournier opted to go on road trips to visit the homes of several former presidents, men he knew Tyler admired. This is the personal story of Fournier's transformation into a new father figure. It is also filled with research and interviews with parents and children on the expectations, hopes, and dreams they have for their children and the potential damage those pressures can cause. The desire to please the parent is so heavy that many children are "experiencing depression, anxiety, psychosomatic disorders and substance abuse…privileged kids also are more likely to develop stress, exhaustion…an unhealthy reliance on others for support, and a poor sense of self." In a straightforward manner, Fournier outlines each of these issues and provides clues on how parents can tone down their hopes so their children can have happier childhoods and more fulfilling adulthoods. Good advice backed by research coupled with personal reflections by a father on how to let children grow up to be individuals rather than miniature versions of their parents.

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Meet the Author

RON FOURNIER is the Senior Political Columnist for National Journal. He began his family and career in Arkansas, covering then Governor Bill Clinton before moving to Washington in 1993, where he covered politics and the presidency during the administrations of Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Fournier also served as a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics, where he co-wrote the New York Times bestseller Applebee's America. He holds the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award for coverage of the 2000 elections, and he is a four-time winner of the prestigious White House Correspondents' Association Merriman Smith Memorial Award.

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Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent's Expectations 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Jason_A_Greer More than 1 year ago
Love That Boy by Ron Fournier has, to its advantage, several things going on within it, but they call come back to a singular point: how parents and their children struggle to be known and love one another, through the soup of ways that people interact with one another. Fournier, a long time national political correspondent and columnist, tells here how he and his wife worked hard, and gave to love and understand their Asperger son, and in return, how their son worked hard and gave to be the type of son would would make their parents proud. This book bears large elements of grace and gentleness and of the absurdities of life, that help the larger point be heard. Coming from a blue collar, middle class, midwestern background, but spending his career at the highest levels of American political journalism, what Fournier brings to this little over 200 page work is a deep desire to understand, empathize and interact with his son and to help readers, who certainly are aware of how expectations for parenting and civic life have changed so fast in the last generation. The framework of this work is Fournier's journey, with his son, on eight road trips associated with nine different Presidents. Each journey is used to illustrate how he and his son are working to understand each other better, through the struggle of a disorder on the Autism spectrum. In particular, Fournier focuses his observations on Presidents on how these men worked with their own father and children, in positive and negative ways. Leveraging prior relationships, Fournier is able to have his son meet both George W Bush and Bill Clinton at their Presidential centers in Dallas and Little Rock, for two meetings that are at the heart of this story. In both meetings Fournier felt awkward. At times, both Bush and Clinton struggled to overcome a communication barrier between themselves and Tyler Fournier. And Tyler somehow managed to open up, in two different ways in the private sanctums of these two former world leaders. Weaving personal narrative and contemporary research on psychology and sociology, Fournier is able to take his readers on a journey as well, and help them understand the motive for this work of love and grace, of family and understanding. In this work, Fournier is both dealing with his guilt and frustration about not being able to be around for more of his child's life due to professional pressure and at the same time, his frustration that his son did not meet the self realized expectations he had for his son, in how he progressed socially and with things like sports. Writers have to work out of their experience, and the go-go, hyper competitive lifestyle of the Washington suburbs is not typical of most of America, nor will most parents struggling to understand and work with their non - Neurotypical children have the particular experience of having their child interact with former Presidents, but his larger point, particularly in the last couple of chapters is well stated. His work to love his child, understand and empathize with him about life and come to grips with his own projected expectations are something all parents can take to heart. For its length and researched subject matter, this work is well recommended.
KarenfromDothan More than 1 year ago
Ron Fournier, a political columnist, was once a man very much wrapped up in a career that he loved. He was a journalist who covered the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. It was a job that required lots of travel, and a major sacrifice of family time. He and his wife Lori have three children; the older two are daughters and the youngest a son. Tyler is different from most boys. He’s super intelligent, loud, and lacks social skills. His parents think he’s “quirky” and hope he will outgrow his awkwardness. When Tyler is twelve, Lori happens to watch an episode of Parenthood, a drama that has a family with an Asperger’s child. This is sort of a parental guidebook full of advice gleaned from the author’s talking with parents and experts. I think it’s amazing that no one realized Tyler has Asperger’s until he was practically a teenager; not a single teacher or physician, and that it was a television show Lori happened to watch that finally resulted in his diagnosis. I didn’t know much about autism or Asperger’s before reading this book and it has gone a long way toward fostering a better understanding of it. The book chronicles the trips he makes with his son once the diagnosis has been made, and all the lessons he learned along the way. Lots of valuable insights for ALL parents, not just parents of children with Asperger’s. I highly recommend you read this book.
B-loNY More than 1 year ago
Up close and personal. Asperger's can be manageable