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Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight…

Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me…

by Ron Fournier

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My brother has Asperger's, so these types of stories are fascinating to me. No two Aspies are the same, as we're reminded of in this book, and I love learning about how Asperger's uniquely fits into other peoples' lives. But there are experiences with both having Asperger's and loving someone who has Asperger's that are pretty universal. I can't speak for someone with Asperger's of course, but I understand the fears regarding whether this wonderful individual will ever be fully independent, the sorrow of watching them go through chunks of life without friends, the pride that about busts you open when they do something "normal"—like recognizing that you're having a bad day and offering to make you an omelet, or getting a job as what they call an "assistant robot babysitter"—and the overpowering love you have for this person who is so wonderfully unique. This books echoes all of that, albeit from a parent's, not a sister's, perspective.

The Asperger's story takes up about half of the book—the rest is about parenthood in general, with some American history (which I love) thrown in for flavor. There is much to enjoy and appreciate about this book, whether you connect to the Asperger's storyline or not. I'm not a parent yet, but the conclusion I drew from this book is that most kids admire their parents, and most parents are too hard on themselves. I lucked out in the parents department, myself—nobody's parents are perfect, but mine came pretty dang close to being the perfect parents I've needed them to be. I think a lot of my peers would say the same. I highly recommend this book, and it won't take you long to read it. ( )
  AngelClaw | Aug 4, 2016 |
Ron Fournier's book is both a very personal story of his family (including his son Tyler, who has Asperger's syndrome), as well as a broader discussion of modern parenting.

The personal aspect of the book works well. It's warm and affecting. He writes candidly about his family, his own parenting doubts and failings, and the challenges he and his wife have faced with Tyler and their two daughters. We see how tough life is in every family, as well as the added difficulties when a family has a child with Asperger's -- even a loving and committed family with financial resources.

Tyler leaps off the page whenever he's present -- he is always his own person, with his own thoughts and feelings about his life and his condition. He has wisdom and a great sense of humor, and he always keeps us off balance. After Tyler's diagnosis, father and son embark on a series of history road trips. The author uses each road trip to illustrate one of his broader points about parenting. Unfortunately, most of the road-trip sections are very short in relation to the "lessons learned" sections. I'm a dad with a history-loving teenager, and I would have loved to read more about the road trips. This is when the book comes alive for me. The meeting Tyler has with Bill Clinton is hilarious and nicely done (it's hard to tell who is more socially awkward: the former president or the teenager with Asperger's!). The chapter on Tyler's meeting with George W. Bush is also good. I wish there had been more of that.

It's the general parenting sections (most of the book) that fall flat for me. The author discusses our out-sized parental expectations and how many of us go wrong in trying to fulfill our own needs for our children to be popular, geniuses, superstars, etc. He shows the scary excesses many of us engage in. But it seems as if all the parents fall at one end of the spectrum or the other: either overly involved or absent/uninvolved. I would have liked more nuance and balance. Yes, I'm sure there really are dads who yell at their physician because their child's knee injury jeopardizes his brilliant athletic future. Yes, I'm sure there are moms who sit at football games and criticize the male athletes as dumb jocks and the girls as "sluts." And parents who scream at referees. And parents who insist on the college their child attends, or on their academic major or career path. And so on. Fournier does briefly mention "Goldilocks parents" (not too hard, not too soft), but he treats these as the exceptions.

He writes: "Why do we struggle so much over what makes our children different?" It's a valid point, and well worth pondering. But *do* we all struggle so much with this? Maybe I'm naive, but many of the parents I know seem to fall somewhere into the middle ground: involved and committed parents who maybe push too hard (or too little) sometimes, and who make plenty of mistakes, but are generally respectful of their child's individuality and accept their child's personal wishes and goals. I appreciate the research he has done for the parenting portions of his book (academic research as well as many personal interviews with parents around the country), but at best, it reads like a fairly standard survey of parenting literature. At worst, it can start to feel a bit like a lecture.

It feels as if the book wasn't quite sure what it wanted to be, and in trying to do both things, it ultimately wasn't entirely successful.

That said, it's an honest and thought-provoking book about parenthood. My advance copy included a handwritten note from the author that read: "A parent's love is unconditional. Beware of the caveats." That sentiment also permeates his book, and I'm thankful to the author for that always timely reminder.

(Thanks to Harmony Books for an advance copy via a giveaway. Receiving a free copy did not affect the content of my review.) ( )
1 vote Wickabod | Jun 7, 2016 |
The personal stories included in this book about the author and his Asperger's son are fascinating. I read it to try to gain a better understanding of an aspie person, and it did certainly help. The studies cited throughout make for less interesting reading. The list of 20 highly desirable qualities generally possessed by aspies were lovely, and I plan to make a copy. ( )
  khiemstra631 | Jun 3, 2016 |
Several weeks after I finished Love That Boy I was unsure of how I felt about the book. Since I laid down my paperback ARC copy, and began reflecting on the impact the book had on me, Ron Fournier has appeared on several TV programs promoting the book often with short video clips with his son, Tyler.

My first impression of the book was mixed. I had expected a straight forward biography based on the subtitle…What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About A Parent's Expectations. I am glad I gave myself time to let my thoughts marinate because I have grown deeply affected by the book.

Ron Fournier was a successful White House correspondent caught up, in his words, "an ego-inflating career that I often put ahead of my wife and kids" when Tyler was born. His youngest child arrived with a bright, loving and funny disposition. His precocious vocabulary and professorial demeanor left no doubt that he would have a bright and successful life. But there was another side to Tyler. Publically Tyler would exhibit an "inappropriate" social awkwardness that made Ron uncomfortable and embarrassed.

As time went on it became obvious the idealized image of Tyler's life seen in Ron's mind didn't match up against reality. Tyler's awkward social behavior had only increased much to his parent's dismay which led to frustration and family disharmony.

The turning point for all their lives began the night that Lori Fournier discovered, while watching a TV Series entitled Parenthood, that Tyler shared the same characteristics as the child on the program. She was immediately knew Tyler "would not outgrow it." Shortly thereafter Tyler, now 12, was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

Ron takes the reader on his journey of discovery to understand Asperger's. Utilizing Tyler's love of history and the need for father and son to spend time in each other's company, they visit historic settings across the country.

Ron fills in the spaces of his family's story with information and knowledge meant to enhance the lives every family; not just those challenged with a special needs child.

When I stopped trying to figure out why Ron skipped back and forth between Tyler, the medical professionals, and the personal stories of the community, I realized that story wasn't as disjointed as it first appeared. Ron was sharing his own story as it unfolded for him. Step by step we are drawn into heart of this fabulous Fournier family. You can't help yourself... you WILL love that boy.

Highly recommended.

Thank you, Ron Fournier and Harmony Books for the ARC paperback copy of this book. The receipt of this paperback in no way influenced my review. Around the same time I received the ARC I was granted an e-galley version by Harmony books via Edelweiss. ( )
  Itzey | May 1, 2016 |
The lesson that I walk away with from Love That Boy by journalist Ron Fournier is in the book's title. "Love that boy" is a father's statement about his son. More than that, "Love that boy" is an imperative for all parents. Love your children completely and absolutely for who they are in all their splendid uniqueness. For a relatively slim volume, this book covers a lot of ground.

Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2016/04/love-that-boy.html

Reviewed based on a copy received through a publisher’s giveaway. Thank you Shelf Awareness. ( )
  njmom3 | Apr 14, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804140480, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 15 Feb 2016 19:29:42 -0500)

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