Love That Boy

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

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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 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.


“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

 “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

"Ron Fournier has done a masterful job capturing the troubles and triumphs of parenting. That we – as parents and caring adults – too often superimpose our own needs and aspirations on the children we love is an important theme in this must read new book. It is a moving tale of fatherhood and of coming to terms with a more enlightened definition of perfect.”
Stephen Gray Wallace, MSEd, President and Director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE)

“There's no magic wand that can make the challenges of parenting disappear, but having the courage to talk honestly about them may be the next best thing. This is a candid look at raising an atypical child. Ron Fournier leads by example, digging through expectations and ego to lay bare what it means to love a child unconditionally."
Olivia Morgan, Managing Editor, The Shriver Report; Member of the Board, New England Center for Children

"Ron Fournier’s deeply personal account of the frustrations and celebrations that go along with raising a special child is deeply moving. As the proud father of an Asperger’s child, Ron's heartfelt work inspired me as much as I know it will inspire you.”
Joe Scarborough, NBC News senior political analyst and host of Morning Joe

"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

“Ron Fournier and his son Tyler are partners on an eye-opening road trip to the crossroads of love and humanity. Along the way, they meet Bill Clinton and George Bush; but the real reward for readers from his being on the road with his dad is that we meet Tyler, a young man with Asperger’s and a heart as big as the country.” 
Mike Barnicle, journalist and MSNBC news analyst

“In this aching, honest, and moving account of coming to terms with his son’s Asperger diagnosis, Ron Fournier speaks to every parent who has struggled with, not only accepting but embracing, his or her child’s differences.  Quite frankly, that is every one of us.  To varying degrees we all have two children, the one we hoped for and the one we have.  It is the latter that is the blessing. Love that Boy reminds us not to be preoccupied with weaknesses, but to look for strengths. Ultimately Fournier sees clearly, without projection or intruding narcissism, the gift that he has been given in his quirky, whip smart, and unforgettable son Ty. A brave and beautiful recounting.”
—Madeline Levine, Ph.D. author of The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well

From the Hardcover edition.