Parenting Ponderings, Part 2

Chris and I decided early on we were NOT going to sit around and dread the teen years while the kids were littles. We were careful to talk optimistically and hopefully about the years ahead. We worked to prioritize relationship over rules, fun over seriousness, connection over criticism. We had “family fun nights” during the elementary years, when we found playful and goofy ways to teach Scripture application and have times of family bonding.

Ice cream attack!

Ice cream attack!

Yes, we squeezed toothpaste out of the tube, illustrating how our words cannot be put back in the tubes once they are spoken. (Eph. 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”) We had surprise “ice cream attacks” when we would tuck the kids in bed, sneak back into their rooms, and pile them in the car to get ice cream in our pajamas. We had Barbarian Night, where we ate spaghetti with no knives, forks, or napkins. We all had full permission to plant our faces straight down into the spaghetti and make as big of a mess as we wanted. (Umm, I knew NOTHING of sensory issues back then. Poor Landon: the kid couldn’t even handle a sticker being placed on his skin as a toddler. He now tells me the meal was not only horrifying for him, but just on the brink of traumatizing.) Sorry Landon.🤷🏼‍♀️

We DO have a counseling budget for the kids.

Barbarian night at the Hoover house.

Barbarian night at the Hoover house.

I designed and printed 100’s of after school charts with encouraging quotes, chores, and scripture memory verses. If one chore chart plan didn’t work, I would scramble to invent a new one. I had a faithful HPDeskJet 300 printer, a pirated copy of Microsoft Word, and a gigantic desktop computer. I would design a new chart with colorful clipart from my ClipArt CD collection. The charts featured handy-dandy shadow boxes for them to check off daily chores, homework, memory verses, and then there would some type of reminder for them to have a happy heart. {Yep, I flinched as I typed that. Enneagram 7 at work right there.} I have saved every last one of those silly charts. If you ever want to come over, we can sit and laugh together at my very heartfelt yet embarrassing collection of attempts to chart the little Hoovers into good behavior. I may need a glass of wine instead of cup of coffee for that tour de memory lane!

I remember hearing James Dobson from “Focus on the Family” say that the main goal for the teenage years should be to “get them through it.” As an over-zealous young mom, I thought that was such a low goal. I mean really? Just get them through? I can do way better than JUST get them through!

I will parent…


SUPER-well behaved

SUPER-yes ma’am-ing

SUPER Bible-quoting



I suppose you know what is coming next. Despite all of our zeal, and intentionality...

...all 3 of my sweet little Hoover babies, at some point in their pre-teen and teen years, turned into bratty, sullen, lying, grumpy, sneaky Hoover-beasts. I am not naming names, but with their permission, here is a short list:

Our little angels lied. They got busted sneaking on the roof of the church building, and yes, it just so-happened to be during a tense business meeting when their dad’s job was on the line. {Oh, the irony of timing.} They sent stupid text messages to people they shouldn’t have and found sneaky ways to use their cell phones when they were cellphone grounded for life. {If my book during the little years would have been, “Mommy, I Threw Your Bible in the Potty”, the teen book would have been, “Kids, I Threw your Cell Phones in the Toilet.”} One hid an empty Fire Ball whiskey bottle under the bed and a full Fire Ball bottle in the sock drawer. {Chris and I were pretty pumped with that discovery and we thanked said child for the booty!} They questioned and distanced themselves from their faith. Said embarrassing things about us on their Facebook statuses and blocked us from Twitter. One of them carefully removed his bedroom window screen to sneak around town and sneak back in. They gave us the most God-awful silent treatment on forced family bike rides. A couple of them dated people we didn’t like…

I think I’ll stop there.

Please know, this is not everyone’s story. This is our story. Some people have more turbulent years than others. Some have less. But in our story, the sad truth began to whack me upside the head like a shipment of hardback parenting books: the little beasts they turned into looked a whole lot like me and Chris. No matter what we do as parents, that apple, even with all of our noble parenting skilz, will not fall far from that STUPID tree.

Some of you have kids that did the exact opposite of you and that puzzles you to no end. Some of you ARE the kid and you are wondering why you did the dumb things you did. And some of you might be more put together than me, so when your child turned out like you, that is a pretty darn good thing.

But this was not something I particularly enjoyed seeing. I tend to be rebellious, stubborn, I doubt my faith more than I'd like to admit, I am a pretty good liar, I gossip when I know I should have shut my mouth. I still pile my clothes on the floor, church annoys the fire of out me a lot of the time, I have hundreds of brainstorms about my life purpose I never follow through on, I want to HULK out when systems seem oppressive or bathed in tradition for no reason. I’m stupid competitive. I hate people telling me what to do.

You see, Soul Adventurers, I wanted to chore-chart the ME of them, preach the ME out of them, memorize-Scripture the ME out of them. Turns out that their teenage years had way more to do with what God was teaching me about ME than what God was teaching them.

I had some of my own Soul Adventuring to do.

From my current vantage point, I see more of what He is up to in my life than I ever have. You see friends, that stuff I was trying to Jesus OUT OF them is something JESUS is actually using in me. I can certainly testify to the transforming power of His grace to convict me and change me. But I’m still ME. All the good and bad and messy that entails. I can see how He is using and still transforming my same-ol' rough-edged tendencies.

A couple of years ago, He used my rebellious spirit to help me secretly and subversively advocate in session to help an emotionally-abused woman to find her voice and lovingly stand against her husband’s arrogant demands for submission. He is allowing my college son to teach me to be a more gracious competitor by insisting I hug him after I’m pissed off for losing to him again in ping pong. {Legend has it, I may have actually thrown the paddle a time or two before he came in for the hug.} God is using my stubborn heart to tenaciously fight for a depressed, suicidal client to keep taking the next baby step. He is using my frustration with church to propel me to LOVE PEOPLE ANYWAY, no matter what I think about church, because relationships are always more important than church structure and politics. He is using my impulsivity to move me to take some risks without overthinking the what-ifs. He is using my tendency to want to gossip to instead untangle my thoughts through writing.

The truth is this: the immeasurable grace of God, through the boundless love of Christ, is still chasing me down. He is taking all of my embarrassing rough edges and turning them into something to spread the aroma of His fragrant love to people. Parenting in those years taught me first-hand about the log/speck thing that Jesus invites us to explore (Matt 7:3-5). I was obsessing over their speck and ignoring my own log. I wanted to control them as opposed to having the reckless love of God control me fully. No one, not even the really good kids, can make it though life without struggle, testing limits, hiding some things, challenging the status quo.

Our kids grew out of that teenager-beasty stage. I am so very proud of our kids. Not for just maturing out of a rough period or because of any perceived success in life or what they do. I am so proud of the love we have for each other. I am so proud that each of them have been able to hold space for Chris and me to vulnerably explain what we were up to then and what we have since learned. I’m proud that we can be different, we can disagree, we can say either YES or NO to each other. We are connected. But we are also separate people. They don't have to believe or think like me for me to love them. Oh, I want them to know of God's deep love from them, but we can talk openly about our questions concerning God, the crazy world we live in, church, and life without trying to convince each other of something. And I am proud of that. We take bike rides now that THEY initiate.

Soul Adventurers, I know your life story is very different from mine. It may be with or without a spouse, with or without kids, or any combination of those. And you have your share of pain. Don’t be fooled; those silly stories about our kids were extremely maddening and painful in the moment and they were not funny as they were happening. We had to grieve and hurt our way through it. But so can you. Jesus tells us the Father is always at work. And I believe it. He is holding on to you, so hold on through your disappointments, rejections, grief, life transitions, confusion. His love and grace are big enough for all of those rough edges that are exposed. And I’ve determined to show up with mine. And so can you, my Soul Adventuring friends.

Her fingers tell the whole story.

Her fingers tell the whole story.

Proof of the permission to eat face first!

Proof of the permission to eat face first!