Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent’s Expectations by Ron Fournier
“The original sin of parenting is the baggage we drag into it,” writes Ron Fourier.
You’ve read Fournier for years as he covered all things presidential for the Associated Press Washington D.C. bureau, then as editor for National Journal. He cut his journalistic teeth covering the Clinton governorship in Little Rock, Ark., so one can forgive him for his occasional acts of commentary, many of them critical of the liberal political establishment. In the main has been more balanced than most national political writers, providing an intellectual oasis in a liberal sea of bias.
Now Fournier writes about topics more personal and personally challenging, with his own story of growth as a parent. He explores the typical inventory of our wants and hopes for our children — popularity, normalcy, achievement, genius, grit, empathy, character — and how parents of autistic children are on a journey of acceptance when we cannot check all the boxes — or any of them.
In the most prosaic of turns of events, Fournier and his wife Lori came to the realization that their son was not just “different,” but mildly autistic, after watching just a few episodes of the NBC series Parenthood. One of the grandchildren in the fictional Braverman family has Asperger syndrome.
Fournier’s account of his son meeting President George W. Bush on Fournier’s last day of covering the White House for the Associated Press is authentic; we as parents can relate, even if our children are not “on the spectrum.” For his son is too loud, too obsessed with Barney the terrier, too awkward, too…too. Fournier was embarrassed by his raucous, quirky, obviously “different” son — so unlike himself and so unlike the president and the First Family.
But as they left the Oval Office, President Bush took Fournier by the elbow, looked him in the eyes and — holding his gaze — commanded, “Love that boy.”
The memoir of outsized parental expectations that was launched from that encounter with President Bush can be found at this bookseller.