Kid Stuff

Juggling The Kids

local dad connects with kids through knife-tossing

Claire Jeffries |

My dad, Jim Jeffries (leader of the local juggling troupe, The Jugglenauts), first began to juggle because of a back injury. Being from Indiana where basketball is a religion, he played basketball a lot until he severely injured his back ... three times. “After the third injury, I realized I either had to give up basketball or develop a Vicodin addiction,” said my dad, and he checked out a book on juggling from the library figuring it would be a less dangerous pastime – that was before he started juggling with his kids. “I got my kids into juggling through intimidation and parental authority, and when that didn’t work: guilt,” he laughed. Every birthday, Christmas, and Father’s day, my siblings and I would ask him what he wanted. “All I want is for you to learn how to juggle,” he would respond. And so we learned how to juggle.

Juggling is a way for my dad to be connected with his kids. “You want to be involved in your kids’ lives, and I hated baseball and couldn’t do soccer or basketball, so I settled on juggling. And, because I’m in charge of the troupe’s paychecks, they are forced to spend time with me,” he joked. “The best part of juggling with your kids is that you don’t have to deal with unions or child labor laws. I can throw fire and knives at my kids without getting into trouble.”

One of our first shows was at a nursing home, a show we fondly refer to as “Dante’s Inferno.” Everything went wrong during the show. The diabolo string snapped, and the diabolo went flying into the audience. We messed up on club patterns, and clubs went flying into the audience. For Steal-and-Replace (where a juggler is juggling two clubs and a random object), I went out and grabbed someone’s shoe to juggle. When I brought it back to him, I realized that he didn’t have any arms. It was awkward getting the shoe back on. The entire show was a disaster.

But we kept juggling together. “It builds cameraderie,” said my dad. “We’re all working towards a common goal, and it builds relationships.” But it’s challenging not to carry over juggling frustrations into family life. “If one of my kids didn’t want to practice, I would be frustrated with them for the rest of the day,” my dad confessed. It’s hard to leave work at work when you practice at home, and your co-workers are your family. Though it’s sometimes frustrating, we always make each other laugh.

My dad said that juggling with your kids is fantastic, but parenting in general is “incredible.” “It could fill a whole book,” he said. “You just get more out of parenting than what you put in.” Though my dad really likes juggling, he said he probably wouldn’t stay in it if we weren’t involved. “I would probably pick up a musical instrument or learn Latin. It’s no fun juggling by yourself,” he said.

Honestly, I only picked up juggling so that I could spend more time with my dad. It’s not that I love juggling or enjoy it; it’s that I love my dad and enjoy being around him. He’s hilarious. He makes me laugh and makes me think. He’s the only reason I juggle – so that I can juggle with him.