For as long as I can remember, I had dreamed of becoming a parent. I pictured myself as a wise and gracious mom, full of laughter and fun. Then my husband and I had our first child.

Within a few weeks, all those ideals were traded in for just surviving the day. In the following months and years, as I cleaned spit-up, disarmed toddlers and corralled toys, I saw myself turn into a frazzled, reactive mom – a stark contrast to the mom I had wanted to be.

I told myself that as soon as life settled down, I would work on becoming that other mom. But I began to realize that I was allowing the days and years of my children’s lives to slip through my fingers. Life was never going to settle down, and I couldn’t continue waiting. I had to seize the opportunities in each day and be the parent I wanted to be – now.

But how could I keep from losing the big picture as I dealt with the daily details? And how could I nurture the characteristics I wanted as a parent in the midst of life’s endless demands?

Defining the vision

Ironically, my first step to carpe diem parenting involved reflection, not action. I realized I couldn’t clearly describe the actions I hoped would define my parenting. How could I achieve my parenting goals if I didn’t clarify what they were?

So I thought about what I wanted my children to remember most about their childhood. Then I examined those ideas to eliminate the unrealistic ones and to refine the rest in light of God’s priorities.

One of the things I identified was being intentional about my children’s spiritual development. I also wanted to be gentler in my communication with them. Sometimes I acted like a drill sergeant in order to get things done, and I didn’t like that. I wanted to have more fun with my kids, rather than being so focused on their development that I forgot to enjoy them.

Have a plan

Identifying my parenting aspirations made me approach each day differently, but I knew that wasn’t enough to keep me going against the daily onslaught. I needed a plan, and I needed to set it in motion.

What family traditions should I start? How could I build more fun and laughter into the day? What discipline techniques did I need to put in place so I wouldn’t resort to yelling? How could I orchestrate one-on-one time with the kids? Where could family devotions fit in? I needed to figure out these details.

Regrouping

But even the best-laid plans go amiss. It was easy to run out of energy and lose track of the vision. To keep going for the long haul, I needed to find some creative ways to nurture my parenting dreams.

I posted notes in strategic places with Bible verses or quotes that exemplified the character traits I was working on. I also discussed my parenting goals with close friends and asked them to hold me accountable. And I scheduled some regular time to pray and refine my parenting. A parenting devotional book gave me daily inspiration.

Carpe diem

No matter how old your kids are, it is never too late to seize the day. Recently, my mom called to say that she had a plan for how we could get together for a mother-daughter day every few months, despite the distance between our homes. She said that she had allowed her life to get too busy, and she wasn’t getting the time she wanted to continue building our relationship.

I was elated because I had wanted to see my mom more often but knew she was busy with a demanding, people-oriented career. The mother-daughter day represented a significant and intentional sacrifice of her time. And I could see that, no matter how old she was, she continued to work at being the mom she wanted to be.

That’s what I want to do, too – starting today, and the next day, and the next . . .

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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