Monday, October 8, 2012

A Thousand Tiny Cracks, an excerpt...

I hope that every woman who has been frustrated with her husband, exasperated with her children, or simply finds herself slipping through the cracks in her family can relate to this struggle.
    - Stella

“He hit me!” A scream echoes from the basement. Crap. Zach and Maya have been playing so nicely that I actually forgot they were still inside. How in the world am I supposed to write a marketing paper with that going on?
Damn it. I stride into the basement and transplant Zach, who immediately starts sniveling, away from Maya’s coloring table.

“Zach, please stop,” I pick up a puzzle, hoping it will encourage him to look through his toys. Maya continues coloring, but a sneaky smile escapes her lips.

“No!”  Smack. Freaking Fergus the train, a Christmas present from this past year, just hit me in the face.

 “Zach, no throwing,” I scold as I snatch Fergus and place it on top of the mantle. Whack. Salty whooshes by my head and smacks a lamp. He follows Fergus to the mantle. Harold flies across the room and hits the coffee table.

Shit. “Do not throw!” I gather all the trains and dump them on top of the mantle. Zach marches over, plucks a small toy radio from the shelf, and slams it as hard as he can on the floor.

“No!” he shrieks again.

I scream, “Upstairs,” in a voice that has possessed me, but Zach refuses to comply. I restrain him like a football and drag him up the steps so that he can’t kick or hit me while I move him. On the way into his room, he whacks his head on the door frame. I swear he does that on purpose. I don’t think it is even possible to fit his almost four-year-old flailing body through the door frame without whacking something. Usually it is me.

There is not one bit of positive reinforcement during my day. It isn’t that I miss my career so much; I just miss other people recognizing me as a person who is worth something. Deep down, I tell myself that raising our children and caring for our home is a worthwhile job. The problem is that this job has no rewards. No one ever says, “Great job mom, you cleaned up another meal,” or, “Nice catch,” when a Pop Tart whizzes by my ear.

I stomp out the front door. My husband Ethan is knee deep in dirt with our neighbor Theo, digging a trench through our yard. Tad, Theo’s twin brother, watches from the sidelines, looking amused.

“How is the paper going?” asks Ethan sarcastically. I stare daggers. I resent Ethan. I hate him because he is the one who should encourage me, but he doesn’t. He escapes to the gym, works in the yard, and participates in any activity he can to hide away from the kids. I could tolerate it if he didn’t just totally ignore me, like what I do doesn’t even matter. I spend most of my time feeling like a ghost.

“Paper, really?” I ask. “Could you not hear the screaming through the walls?”

The guys chuckle. Obviously, they heard most of it.

 “We’re the poster children for birth control,” I snap. “You guys should pay attention because you don’t actually want one of those.” That stops them. Theo looks a little sick. I always pegged him as the wild one.

“So, Stella, what are you writing about?” inquires Tad.

“Some marketing crap comparing print versus online concepts,” I answer.

“Did you pick a company?” he asks.

I roll my eyes at him. “Did it sound like I had time to pick a company?”

 “I’ll help you out if you want,” he offers. “I’m not in the mood to dig.”

“There you go,” Ethan interjects. “Now you even have help. It will be done in no time.” And back to digging he goes.

I halt and watch him. The ropy muscles in his forearms flex as he heaves the shovel deeper into the trench and sweat glistens down his bare back, leaving dirt trails. His body tenses as he pulls the handle back, his concentration intently focused on one square foot of metal. His physical exertion draws me in, like watching him run up and down the basketball court in college. I want to grab Ethan’s hand and lead him into the house, up the steps to our room…

“You ready?” Tad follows me into the house.

© Stella Maddox, 2012   
Material may not be reproduced or distributed without permission.


  1. Parenting can be so frustrating sometimes, especially when our partner is engaged in other matters and doesn't see how badly we need help. This book sounds very interesting.

  2. How is it that I didn't see this until now? Thank you!!