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

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

↤ Definition of text ᠖ Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent's Expectations pdf ⇁ By Ron Fournier ∮ 1NormalDid I Grow Up According to Plan Washington, D.C We started slow and close to home five miles away, to be exact at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Lori wanted our first trip to be at the place where I spent most of my time away from our kids When the invitation came from the White House for the 2010 media holiday party, Lori handed me the unopened envelope and said, Im not going this year Take Ty.That was two weeks ago Tyler and I are now standing in line at the party, a gold fringed red carpet beneath our feet and a crystal chandelier above our heads A tuxedoed waiter offers Tyler a flute of cranberry juice Nope, Tyler says The line inches closer to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who are posing for pictures with members of the White House press corps, a decades old tradition meant to ease tensions between reporters and the reported Critics consider this press party a prime example of Washingtons incestuous culture Theyre right, but thats not the point of this story This is about my boy.A lithe waitress presents Tyler with a tray of bacon wrapped shrimp Uhuh, he says, turning to a table of cheese and crackers and loudly proclaiming, Are you kidding me Each time he refuses the food, I tell my 13 year old, Be polite, son Its been six months since Tyler was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome He doesnt know when hes too loud or when hes talking too much He cant read facial expressions to tell whether somebody is happy, sad, or bored He has a difficult time stepping outside of himself to see how he is viewed by others Was he rude to the waiters or just honest Tyler doesnt always know the difference He is what polite company calls socially awkward or a bit off Bullies call Tyler weird Even I dont always know what to make of him.Im not just embarrassed about his manners Im embarrassed about being embarrassed After all, this kid would do anything to please me I expect him to behave he does I expect him to respect his mom he does I love sports he hates them, but he plays for me Guilt and helplessness gnaw at any parent most deeply for a father like me, whose expectations exceed his common sense, and who for years missed and ignored signs that his child needed help.Tyler and I inch toward the Green Room, in line with blow dried TV anchors and stuffy columnists Hes practicing his handshake and hello Its a pleasure to meet you, Mr President Its a pleasure to meet you, Mr President Its 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 dont let you down, Dad.What kind of father raises a son to worry about embarrassing his dad Worse, how could I be so pathetically unable to help my boy I want to tell Tyler not to worry, that hed never let me down That theres 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.It is now our turn The president shakes my hand while Tyler approaches Mrs Obama Still playing hoops the president asks me, recalling the pickup game we played during the 2008 presidential campaign Yes, sir, I reply as we pose stiffly for pictures Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mrs Obama gently brush Tylers bangs from his eyes and lean in for a hug I worry for a moment that Tyler will pull away because hes not comfortable with being touched, especially by strangers But he embraces the First Lady, wishes her a merry Christmas, and then shuffles to his left to look her husband squarely in the eye and shake his hand Its a pleasure to meet you, Mr President My stomach clenches as I realize the problem here isnt my son Its not even autism Its me.Sitting knee to knee at a coffee shop counter, Stacey Bromberg and I stared self consciously out a window onto a strip mall parking lot while she ripped scraps of cardboard from the sleeve of her cup and cried I guess you never think of the possibility of something not being for the lack of a better word perfect Bromberg is the mother of two elementary school children, including a son, Gavin, who struggles with attention deficit disorder and social skills Its been hard on the family, she said Hard on our marriage.From a speaker directly above our heads, Louis Armstrongs What a Wonderful World gave way to Simple Plans Perfect The mythology of excellence is so pervasive in our culture that its Greek chorus chased me down at a Starbucks Did I grow up according to plan a young man asks his father in the song Im sorry I cant be perfect.Stacey ignored the music, blew on her coffee, and continued He doesnt fit in at school, she said I asked how Gavins issues were hard on her marriage Nothing major, Stacey replied, but we dont always agree on what to do for him Gavins doctors wanted to sharpen his focus with medication Stacey fought against them Her husband, Adam, was open to drugs Gavin broke the tie I like who I am, the fifth grader told his parents I dont want to change my personality.Why do we struggle so much over what makes our children different Despite the fact that all of us are less than average at most things, we dont want our kids flirting with societys Mendoza line Smaller than normal taller than normal heavier than normal skinnier than normal sicker than normal weaker than normal For nine months, expectant mothers and fathers worry about childhood deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, and various other physical and learning disabilities that could dash their dreams Sexuality is another bugaboo Straight parents expect to have straight kids because thats what they know and because they think being gay in America is harder than being hetero.The most primal of parental expectations is the desire to see your child accepted, to avoid the dastardly awords atypical and its caustic cousin, abnormal Lori had an endearing way of expressing this desire All I want, she said during each of her three pregnancies, is a baby with ten fingers and ten toes In other words, no defects Stacey and Adam Bromberg would not use the word defective to describe Gavin any than Lori and I would use it to describe Tyler We love our boys But lets be honest When your children arent anything like you or like anything you expected you struggle to understand them, which makes it difficult to connect with them.In his bestselling book, Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon analyzes families with children who are disabled, gifted, or otherwise different from what their mothers and fathers expected Parents, he concludes, must ask themselves this question Do I simply accept my kids for who they are, or do I push them to become their best selves Solomon wrote, My mother didnt want me to be gay because she thought it wouldnt be the happiest course for me, but equally, she didnt like the image of herself as the mother of a gay son.Her son is gay Solomons book destroys one of the biggest myths of parenting A normal kid is better off than one who is different In fact, he argues, weve all got our quirks The exceptional is ubiquitous to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state, Solomon wrote As my parents had misapprehended who I was, so other parents must be constantly misapprehending their own children.After I wrote a magazine article about my relationship with Tyler, a reader, Russell S., emailed me about his father I always wanted to impress him, wrote the public relations executive for a Fortune 500 company I thought the only way to get him to like me was to do things he liked But I dont think I ever lived up to his potential I was never good in sports a killer, considering my Bronx born dad once worked at Yankee Stadium And I am in my mid 30s with no kids Hell never say it, but I always feel like I cannot give him what he wants I sometimes think I embarrass him.I called Russell at his Manhattan office and asked what exactly he thought his dad wanted from him I feel guilty that Im not giving my dad or any dad what they expect in a son, he replied.Whats that I pressed Russell was holding something back.You expect to become a grandparent, Russell said Its almost an unspoken social convention that you give your parents grandchildren He coughed to cover up the teary crack in his voice Im gay.Russell paused I sensed that he wanted me to change the subject Finally he filled the silence Its probably not going to happen for me children, he continued I often think, when I die, wheres the name going to go I feel a real responsibility, and Im not sure its the right kind of guilt.I asked how his parents had handled the news Weve never had the talk, he said Of course they know But Ive never had the coming out talk with them.The closest Russells father came to accepting his sons sexuality was during a roundabout conversation one Thanksgiving Maybe youll never have children, his dad said, but before I leave this earth I want to know that youre being taken care of and being loved.Thank you, Russell replied.In Far from the Tree, Solomon also argues that the aversion to raising an atypical child is exacerbated in parents who assume theyre raising an echo of themselves Parenthood abruptly catapults us into a permanent relationship with a stranger, and the alien the stranger, the stronger the whiff of negativity, he wrote We depend on the guarantee in our childrens faces that we will not die Children whose defining quality annihilates the fantasy of immortality are a particular insult we must love them for themselves, and not for the best of ourselves in them, and that is a great deal harder to do.Looking back, Alan Dworkin knows that was his mistake A successful attorney from South Carolina, Dworkin always wanted a boy whom he could teach to play sports, and who might follow him into the legal profession His son Mitch turned out to be a klutz, both socially and physically, the kind of boy who had trouble making friends and avoiding bullies Dworkin thought golf would help Mitch meet people and learn to control his impulses Bad idea.Mitch, who was about 8 years old when his dad first brought him to the golf course, gripped the club like a baseball bat He couldnt play a lick, Alan said Worse, while Alans pals and clients lined up putts, Mitch chattered and darted to the flag pin Id pull him back I wouldnt yell and Id whisper in his ear, You dont do that when somebodys putting But the boy had no sense of social propriety Alan once introduced Mitch to a new client, a woman with a large mole on her cheek The boy pointed at the ugly mass and asked her what was wrong with her face Adam was horrified.Mitch is now 50 He remembers the pain and shame of embarrassing his father I tried to please my dad a lot as a child, but he was kind of hard on me, Mitch said I kind of felt just like I couldnt do anything right Mitch felt the pressure of his dads expectations until those expectations were reset by a doctors findings Mitch was in his 30s when a doctor diagnosed him with anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder, and in his 40s when labeled an Aspie Until then, Mitch said, Dad was not being unreasonable in what he was expecting.Alan loves Mitch He has always loved Mitch But its only been in the last 15 or so years that Alan has understood his son, and with that knowledge comes guilt When I think about what I did and didnt do, Alan said, I just want to cry.Even as a toddler Tyler was mesmerizing a handsome, blue eyed packet of precocious energy, with the vocabulary and curiosity of a college professor and the joyful charisma of a comedian Everybody in the family has a favorite Tylerism, a story that illustrates his old soul intelligence and wit.I remember him in the middle of the night, on tiptoes from inside his crib, turning on his bedroom light and yelling, I want to play with choo guys That huge crinkly eyed smile He slept with a heavy blanket pulled over his head, no matter how hot it got, and would pretend to snore with an exaggerated honk shee While speech and vocabulary came easily to Tyler, conversation did not He spoke in monologues and on tangents, with an oddly commanding voice When somebody tried to interrupt him because it wasnt a good time for a small boy to be talking, or he was totally off topic Tyler seemed physically incapable of stopping his thought process He just had to finish, pounding out his thoughts in hurried, quick bursts of speech.Lori recalls a visit to the mall when Tyler saw a baby boy crying Rather than quietly asking Lori what was wrong, our preschooler plunged into the other mothers personal space his nose almost touched her knee and shouted, Cuse me, maam Cuse me, maam Whats wrong with your son On another shopping trip Tyler grew restless as Lori helped Holly pick out a dress for senior prom Sprawling across the aisle, Tyler declared, My blood sugar level is dangerously low Hollys favorite Tylerism is listening to her brother try to negotiate his way out of a shower When I get free will, Im not gonna shower every night any, Tyler said Ill flip a coin Heads, I shower Tails, I dont Most little boys dont like taking showers Few link the chore with the philosophy of free will He hated collared shirts couldnt stand the textured fabric against his neck and called them style cramping shirts.One of Tylers first teachers had a strict rule Any student who forgot his or her pencil needed to give the teacher a shoe as collateral for a loaner Most kids remembered their pencils most days But with his attention deficit disorder and a hyperliteral sensibility, Tyler coped this way Every morning for an entire school year, he took off his left shoe at his locker which was filled with pencils, by the way and limped down the hall to English class Here ya go hed tell the teacher, handing her his shoe Wheres my pencil Winner of the Christopher AwardLove 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 dadsReally Jim Gaffigan, Comedian and author of Dad is FatThis 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 StoryLove That Boy is sohonest, raw, open and unafraid thatit will surprise youwith its startling honesty It helped me understand what some of my friends are going through as parents even those who aren t facing a major health problem but are dealing with the pressures and expectations on themselves and their children Ron s written a book about the grit and love it takes to get through life, and he and Lori emerge from those years with a stronger family and an appreciation for living that all of us can only hope to feel some day.Former White House Press Secretary, Dana Perino Love That Boyis a gift to families of all kinds Tyler is a reminder of why being a parent, whatever the child s condition, is at once the most important and challenging job in mankind.Tom Brokaw,journalist, news anchor, and author of The Greatest GenerationFourniers bracingly candid and engagingly written new book, Love That Boy, represents an evolutionary leap forward in several respects not just for autism related books but for societal attitudes toward parenting in general.Love That Boy is full of feeling The books lesson for everyone is that sometimes we pay the truest tribute to our parents hopes for us by defying their expectations Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, for the San Francisco Chronicle 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 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 ChildrenRon Fourniers 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 Aspergers 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 JoeAmerican 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 BeschlossRon 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 Aspergers and a heart as big as the country Mike Barnicle, journalist and MSNBC news analystIn this aching, honest, and moving account of coming to terms with his sons Asperger diagnosis, Ron Fournier speaks to every parent who has struggled with, not only accepting but embracing, his or her childs 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 WellWe love our kids fiercely thats a given Less obvious is knowing how to love our kids unconditionally, so they in turn can love themselves, feel a sense of belonging in the world, and get out there and thrive All too often we have a specific image of success in mind for our kids and do our darnedest to fashion them accordingly This can make them feel we love not them but our image of who they could become if only they tried harder to please us Fournier leads us step by step through his struggle to accept his third child a son, Tyler, who was diagnosed with Aspergers at age 12 and comes to the realization that Fourniers own ego, not Tylers Aspergers, was the obstacle But this book isnt just for parents of kids with special needs its for any of us, all of us, who have than occasionally needed our kid to be athletic, articulate, artsy, amiable, able A shining example of honesty and humility in parenting, Fourniers journey forced me to dig deep and provoked than a few tears Ultimately, hes drawn a road map for all parents that is as inspiring as it is necessary.Julie Lythcott Haims, author of the New York Times bestseller How to Raise an Adult Without putting too fine a point on it, Love That Boypresents a particular story about Tyler and a universal story about parenthood its conclusions are born out of this moving interaction between personal experience and time honored truths Love That Boyis a must read for parents and the parented.Hank Stephenson, Shelf AwarenessGood 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.Kirkus ReviewI encourage you to read Love That Boy a n eloquent, brave, big hearted bookabout the timeless anxieties and emotions of parenthood, and the modern twists thereon James Fallows, The Atlantic A testament to understanding its OK to not be perfect Love That Boy is alabor of love that intricately and intimately intertwines our current history with raising a child with Aspergers Read it I promise you wont forget it anytime soon Pittsburgh Tribune Review W ith great honesty and empathy, Love That Boy recounts how Fournier set aside a heavy burden of fatherly expectations to understand and embrace his son Tyler, an extraordinary young man It is a brief, moving reflection, not only on parenthood, but on what it means to accept another human being entirely, for who they really are, and how much harder that can be with those who are closest to us Michael Gerson, Washington Post A must read for every parent and grandparent a remarkable, moving, and perhaps life changing read for anyone raising a child in the new millennium.Hugh HewittI loved Ron Fournier s Love That Boy, and while it s a book about parenting, its lessons are universal At its core, this book is an honest, moving mediation on the meaning of unconditional love about the expectations we bring to the relationships in our lives, and how we square those expectations with the real, flesh and blood human beings who mean the most to us and challenge us.Arianna Huffington for Book of the Month MagazineFourniers bracingly candid and engagingly written new book, Love That Boy, represents an evolutionary leap forward in several respects not just for autism related books but for societal attitudes toward parenting in general Love That Boy is full of feeling 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