Spinning plates

As I went through my usual afternoon scramble to change TPN tubing, give meds, clean the living room, keep Patrick’s stomach settled, and make dinner, an image came to my mind of spinning plates.

You’ve seen the act, right? An juggler manages to keep a dozen or so plates spinning either on the table or balanced on tall poles. He does it by watching them closely and going down the line spinning those that need extra attention.

spinning plates

My life right now is a lot like spinning plates. I think most moms’ are, especially those with toddlers.

There are the usual plates. There’s one for entertaining and teaching your child. This plate is spun by reading stories, singing songs, and playing silly games. There’s a safety plate. This one can be a bit wobbly sometimes. It requires you to protect garbage cans, sockets, stairs, etc. There’s the faith-building plate. It needs attention for scripture reading and prayer.

Some plates sit low enough that, if they slow, the show’s not as pretty, but the higher plates can keep spinning. For me, the housework plate’s been spinning a bit slowly. So has the laundry plate. As often as I can, I give them a twirl. So long as they don’t come to a complete stop, the rest of the show is fine.

Raising a child with special needs means makes mine a trickier and more impressive juggling act. That safety plate’s on an extra tall pole. And there are more plates, too. I’ve got plates for medication schedules and plates for appointments and really delicate china plates spinning that require extra care like central lines and infection control. These ones have to spin quite fast and if you leave them unattended come crashing down quite quickly. They take a lot more of my attention than you might expect and keep me running most of the time.

Thankfully, I’ve got assistants. My dear husband spends a lot of time tending to my more errant plates. Impressive, for a man who’s got a whole table spinning on his side. I’m ashamed to admit, sometimes, how often I leave the plates titled “Family” and “Friends” entirely to their own accord. But, you see, those assistants are so reliable, and there are other more unsteady plates with no one but me to watch them.

Sometimes, an onlooker decides to add to the show. They don’t always see the complexity of it. And I, ever the showman, tend to say “yes” too easily when someone says “Could we maybe add a little plate here?” And then, all too often, that little plate has a little cup balanced on the top, too, that someone failed to mention. And I get a bit huffy and want to say, “Hey, didn’t you notice all my other plates here?” But more often than not, I just spin the cup, too, for a while to keep the crowds happy. And then, slip it away and go on with my show. What’s a show without a little bit of “service” or “volunteerism” or “community involvement”, anyway?

To make room for some of the plates, I’ve put others away. My “personal talents and interests” plate is getting a bit dusty from lack of use. But someday it’s time will come again.

And you never know when that minute or two with a difficult extra plate will turn out to be just the perfect extra flair. After all, some of the best stunts are the most difficult. Sometimes “family fun” is the hardest plate for me to get spinning, but the dimension it adds to the show is well worth the extra effort.

So, heck, while I’m at it, does anyone have any knives you’d like me to juggle? And if you’ve got a hand, could you catch that plate?

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