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Love That Boy by Ron Fournier

Love That Boy

by Ron Fournier

Quick take

While it's a book about parenting, its lessons are honest, moving meditation on the meaning of unconditional love.

Why I love it

For me, there are few subjects as precious as unconditional love. All my life, my mother gave me a sense of unconditional loving. This meant that even as I was going for my dreams, I knew that if I failed she wouldn't love me any less. And that made me less afraid to fail.

As a mother, I 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.

Fournier, a father of three, is a seasoned political journalist, with decades spent covering or overseeing coverage of national politics. As he admits, it's "an ego-inflating career that I often put ahead of my wife and kids." His wakeup call comes when his son, Tyler, is diagnosed with Asperger's at age 12. The boy is socially awkward and -- to Fournier's deep disappointment and frustration -- doesn't share his father's love of sports. With the diagnosis, Fournier at last begins to confront a hard, essential truth. "When a parent's expectations come from the wrong place and are pressed into service of the wrong goals, kids get hurt," he writes. "I discovered this late in my job as a father."

For Fournier, the breakthrough comes when he and Tyler discover a shared passion for presidential history. At his wife's urging, father and son set out on a series of road trips -- bonding tours, really -- visiting presidential sites across the country.

But what I find truly refreshing, and what I'm most grateful for, is that this book transcends the political divisions of our time: love, expectations, disappointment, and longing, it turns out, are beyond left-and-right. Fournier and Tyler meet with Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. On Fournier's last day covering the White House for the Associated Press, he introduces Tyler, not yet diagnosed, to President Bush. The meeting is as awkward as Fournier can imagine. As he's leaving, though, President Bush gives him a piece of advice he'll remember for the rest of his life: "love that boy."

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