Thursday, April 28, 2016

Love That Boy by Ron Fournier

Ron Fournier served as a White House Correspondent and covered Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. In 2003 on his last day as a correspondent for the Associated Press, he took his wife Lori and their three children to the Oval Office for the traditional visit accorded departing correspondents. His uninhibited five-year-old son, Tyler, asked President Bush repeated questions. Fournier cringed. His son was somehow different than other five-year-olds and that made Fournier uncomfortable, but Bush was happy to engage with Tyler. Bush asked Tyler questions then teased him. As the family left the Oval Office, the President grabbed Fournier by the elbow and said, “Love that boy.” Fournier thought he understood what the President meant, but he didn’t.  This book shows how Fournier came to understand and how that understanding can help all parents. 
Fournier, like every parent, knew that a parent’s love has to be unconditional, but his expectations of what his children should be got in the way of that love. When Tyler was twelve, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a high-functioning autism. That’s when Lori Fournier decided that Tyler and his Dad needed to bond and Tyler needed real-world ways to learn to socialize so she sent them on the road. Tyler was obsessed with history and Fournier’s job was covering presidents, so Lori encouraged the pair to visit the homes and libraries of past presidents. She also suggested visits with Clinton, Bush, and Obama. She told her husband to take notes on the trips, then to write an article about them, and finally he wrote this book. 

Tyler and his Dad’s trips may not be possible for every family, but the lessons they learned apply to all families. The book’s subtitle: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me about a Parent’s Expectations, captures exactly why every parent should read Fournier’s words. 

His dictums for good parenting alone make this the perfect gift for any father. “Don’t parent for the future; parent for today” is one I wish I’d learned sooner. “Guide, don’t push, celebrate all victories, slow down, share even the bad news, and fight for your kids.” are among the tenets Fournier explores. Rearing children in an era in which popularity, achievement, and intelligence are expected, Fournier found that grit, empathy, and character mattered more and could be encouraged without harming family relationships.

Summing it Up: Fournier’s words are simple, direct, poignant, and funny. His portraits of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton’s interactions with his son brought tears to my eyes. Stop reading this review and buy this book.

Rating: 5 stars   
Category: Nonfiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Soul Food, Super Nutrition, Book Club
Publication date: April 12, 2016
What Others are Saying:
“Love That Boy captures both the fears and gifts of fatherhood and writes about it with honest, selfless clarity. The book is a joy to read and should be required for all new dads. . . Really”   -- Jim Gaffigan, Comedian and Author of Dad is Fat

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