Guest Post: Giving Up the Cherries in the Fruit Cocktail

GUEST POST: I am so pleased to present the writing of my dear friend, Nicole Juranek. I hope you enjoy her truthful yet unconditionally loving perspective to a life-changing struggle that all of us parents have endured, but that none of would ever change. I love her honesty as she tells us of the sacrifices it takes to be a good mom, and the incredible love that those same sacrifices create. Enjoy!

Nicole with her two wonderful reasons for sacrifice.

“True love is giving up the cherries in the fruit cocktail...” is what a friend recently shared about parenthood. Just hearing that made me nod along in complete agreement. First, you must know my whole life has been shaped by words. My mother had a saying in our bathroom (of all places) that read, “Don’t pray for an easy life; pray to be a strong person.”  I say things over and over to myself to keep me motivated/alive. Just last night, a friend of mine said, “The more you struggle, the closer you are to God.” 

His words almost knocked me off my feet. 

I am drawn to words and I live by them. So, what else have I given up besides the cherries in a can of fruit cocktail in light syrup? Some days I feel like I’ve given everything up, and yet, some days I feel like I haven’t given enough of myself to my two boys.

Each day, I know my work day is over when my colleague, Kaci, walks down my office hallway and stops in my doorway. We are both community college professors and we have both have small kids who attend the campus child care center. (It’s not a day care; they care for the child, not for the day.) She’s in my doorway which means it’s time to go get the kids and start shifting into motherhood from professor. She was wearing a sleeveless top (carrying a bottle of breast milk for her baby). She said, “To hell with it, I’m a full professor. I’m wearing a sleeveless shirt on a hot day. Let the students see my tattoos.” Then Kaci said, “I wish I was more of myself, like the person I once was, but I’m not. I’m all like, gotta get the kids to soccer, dance lessons and have a roast in the crock pot.” 

I know what she’s talking about. She’s talking about giving up the cherries in the fruit cocktail…for her kids.

Of all the things I have given up, I do know it was worth it. I can’t imagine life without my boys, despite the challenges. My boys are night and day. From the way they look, to the way they act, I couldn’t raise two more opposite children. What do they have in common? Poop jokes and the same parents. Oliver is blonde, brown-eyed, full of adventure, and talks non-stop. Getting in line for something is an Olympic sport. Owen is a red-head, with blue eyes, slow moving, introverted kid who notices the very small details. I had no idea they painted all the neighborhood fire hydrants a variety of colors until Owen pointed it out.  He can tell you where they are and how they differ.

When I was pregnant, a friend with a baby quickly clued me in about what I would give up. “Say goodbye to doing things quickly,” she said. At the time I was flustered by her comment. But, I now realize that I have given up going anywhere quickly. This just happens when you have a kid or more.  Someone has needs-- missing shoes, shoes that feel funny, peanut butter on his face, peanut butter on his shoes, needs their special blanket/stuffed animal/lucky rabbit foot, permission slip signed, a drink, a nap, or a cigarette. Wait that’s me, wait, I quit smoking 10+ years ago. But I do still breathe deeply sometimes and wish I had a cigarette in hand. 

But, I don’t. I gave that up too.

Since my first child was born, I have struggled with giving up parts of myself and how having a baby changes your identity. I wish I could clearly communicate what I mean, but somehow my son’s arrival changed me. The summer of 2000 was the pivotal summer between college and my first job. That summer you could hear me saying, “Sleep when you’re dead” every time someone told me they were tired. I know I didn’t sleep much that summer; I was maximizing my time before REAL life arrived. That summer was packed with amazing friends, long talks, and very, very little sleep. My best friend had a minivan with no seats in it except the front seat. We loaded up that van each night to go to a bar. Having no seats was perfect for hauling 10 of our closest friends. And the least drunk friend drove the van at the end of the night. (I seriously gasp at the thought of that now).  I laugh now that I once said, “Sleep when you’re dead.” Those words make me laugh today. Now, I go to sleep approximately 15 minutes after the boys are tucked in their bunk beds. I used to say, “If you aren’t living life on the edge, you’ll miss the view too.”  But, it was just one summer of risks, freedom, and adventure. Was the view incredible? Yes, but I was never very good at leading an unpredictable life.

What’s life like on the edge now? Is this letting the kids stay up until 9:15? Letting them have ice cream and a Popsicle on the same day? But, who can complain too much? The view of them laughing, holding hands as they cross a street, and sunshine in their hair as they ride in the back of the Jeep is pretty magnificent too.

In the future, I promise not to say silly things that will come back to haunt me. I will only say that having kids will change you. Ten years ago, if you had asked me for the cherry in the fruit cocktail, I would have laughed in your face and gobbled it up myself. Today, I would cut a tiny cherry in two pieces to give to each of my boys.  But, then again, I didn’t know I would catch their vomit in my hands and scrub their poop off the walls after an explosive diaper incident. 

And, it doesn’t bother me at all. 

Not one bit. 

I guess that is true love.

Nicole and her adorable boys.

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