What makes a good father, and what makes one a failure? Does less-is-more parenting inspire independence and strength, or does it encourage defiance and trouble? Kickflip Boys is the story of a father’s struggle to understand his willful skateboarder sons, challengers of authority and convention, to accept his role as a vulnerable “skate dad,” and to confront his fears that the boys are destined for an unconventional and potentially fraught future.
Like Thompson, I couldn’t look away either. The book held my attention and kept me in a perpetual state of eagerness to find out what happened next ... Thompson is not an idiot; I’m sure he expected some readers to raise their hackles at Leo and Sean’s misadventures. But that gives him more reason to write Kickflip Boys, not less. Parenting is an art, not a science, and the honesty he brings to the narrative is commendable. It’s brave for a family to open themselves up to the public like this, and that vulnerability should be recognized. Because of Thompson’s humility and accessibility, any parent could find something to learn in these pages ... Thompson tells a compelling story with vivid language, bracing honesty, and sincere soul-searching.
Thompson reluctantly calls it a 'skate dad' memoir ... But it’s more than that, too—it’s an exploration of parenting and guilt and of how much responsibility a father and mother share in the paths their children ultimately take in life ... he writes: 'Parenting became a series of questions about breaking their spirit, about rigidity versus hands off. The near-daily parental dilemma was: Do we lecture, punish, and pummel them for being who they are, or do we keep them raw and a little wild, and accept the consequences?' What’s interesting about Thompson’s question is his assumption that the rawness and wildness of his boys is within his control. But for boys like Leo and Sean...that rawness, that wildness, that pull toward the fringe, is either there or it’s not. If it is, there’s no controlling it; there’s no governing it—there’s only giving in to it, and seeing where it takes you.
Neal Thompson’s Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion, and the Chaos of Fatherhood is not a self-help book, but it offers something better: the knowledge that we parents are not alone in our struggles and doubts, and if we take a step back, we can learn to appreciate the positive aspects of raising our boys ... Thompson gives us an open-eyed, vulnerable account of what it’s like to be a parent to two independent, spirited boys who at an early age embrace skateboarding as not just a sport, but a way of life ... Thompson, like most of us, doesn’t pretend to have the answers. He shares his journey, and the journey of his family, with us in a heartfelt, vulnerable way that will resonate with any parent, but especially the parents of teenage boys.