A star is born, or so you hope. Opening night of the dance recital has arrived and your 7-year-old ballerina couldn’t be more excited. With so many hours of practice, your daughter feels confident that her feet won’t let her down. The lights go up and there she is, center stage. The music starts, but she doesn’t. Panic sets in and a full blown case of stage fright is there for all to see. While you don’t feel the joy right now, someday you’ll look back and cherish the memory.

Why wait? The time to embrace the hidden joys of parenthood is now. Sure, there’ll be times when failed expectations will leave you deflated, disappointed and maybe even embarrassed. But the sooner you let your child be your teacher, the sooner you’ll believe that sometimes the worst of times are the best of times. It’s all about allowing the hidden joys to rise to the top. Below is a primer to guide you on your treasure hunt.

  • Recognize joy. Are you joy-challenged? Go to your local ice cream shop and let your 6-year-old order up his favorite treat. Now, watch his eyes light up when the clerk hands him the double-scoop peanut-butter-and-jelly hot fudge extravaganza. That’s pure, unadulterated joy.

  • Savor joy. Your 10-year-old son doesn’t miss a thing. The next time you see him crouched on the ground, enthralled by a snail oozing a slimy path, join him and savor the moment.

  • Expect joy. Your 12-old-year is positive she’s going to win the class spelling bee. Chances are good that she will. You're positive you aren’t going to get that raise at work. Chances are good that you won’t. Joy is a state of mind. Expect that good things will happen and they will.

  • Express joy. Listen and learn. Your 15-year-old yelps and screams when the football quarterback calls and invites her to the prom. Expressing joy includes dancing, singing and 10 text messages to friends far and near. Expressing joy means sharing it with others.

  • Preserve joy. You saved the macaroni necklace he made for you on his first day of kindergarten. Now, your 17-year-old son is heading off to Stanford. Life goes by so fast, that if you don’t stop and look around, you might miss it, according to movie icon Ferris Bueller. Preserve every bit of parenting joy while there’s still time.