In his book, Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent’s Expectations, Ron Fournier shares the story of his son’s diagnosis with Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism, and what it taught him about parenthood.
After his son Tyler’s diagnosis, at the suggestion of his wife, Lori, Fournier took him on a series of what he called “guilt trips” in an effort to spend more time with his son, which included visits to presidential libraries and meeting two former presidents.
“I felt a lot of guilt that we had missed so many signs,” Fournier told TheBlaze in an interview shortly before Father’s Day.
Tyler has a passion for history and presidents, so Fournier, a veteran political journalist, asked former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to meet with his son, and both did.
Fournier said that the experience his son had with both presidents would make a good story.
“I want to be a skeptic — that’s my job,” Fournier said. “But to be credible, we have to keep in mind that they are people too.”
Fournier said that both men connected with Tyler in their own ways, and showed him the human side of a public servant.
“They had nothing to gain by doing this for Tyler,” Fournier said. “Bush is out of public life and Clinton didn’t know [at the time] that his wife was going to run for president, and even if he did, I’ve been covering him since the 80s — he knows I’m never going to pull a punch on him.”
Fournier said that he hopes fathers who read the book will make an effort to bond with their children over their children’s passions rather than their own, and to be more present in their children’s lives.
“The role of fatherhood has changed, because the role of women in society and the role of mothers in society has changed – thankfully – is changing and is maturing, more is now expected of us,” Fournier said. “Our roles have changed. We have to be a bigger partner and a bigger part of our children’s lives.”
“And that’s a good thing, we should want to be,” he continued. “But the thing is, it’s really hard to be a modern father. So don’t feel guilty about the fact that you’re not going to be perfect. Don’t feel guilty that you have a demanding job – or jobs – you’re not alone.”
Fournier added that fathers “can always be better,” and should never take for granted “the power of presence.”
“Just be around more,” Fournier said. “And when you’re around, be more present.”
Fournier said another key to fatherhood is to put your partner first.
“Parenting today is hard,” he said. “It’s best when it’s a team job.”