I remember it like it was yesterday. I was about 8 years old, so that makes my sister around 11 at the time. We were outside raking out the bushes that lined the side of our house. All of a sudden, I noticed some bugs flying around and immediately commented about them to my sister. It’s important to note here, that she was raking to the left of me, which means, in order to get to our front door, she had to first make her way around me and then proceed around the side of the house and to the front. And that is what she did. Without saying a word to me. Not a peep. Not the slightest warning about the fact that the “bugs” I saw swarming out of the bush I was raking were in fact bees. Angry bees. Bees that she had identified long before sharing her wisdom with me. Her little sister. While I innocently remained standing there, fascinated at the number of “bugs” making their way out of the bush, she snuck around me, made it to the front door and then peeked her head out and shouted, “They’re BEES!”
To my sister’s defense, she knew me well. She was perfectly aware that if she told me the bugs coming toward me were bees, I would run straight to her for protection, with the bees following close behind. Understandable? Perhaps. But, this is a story I will never let her forget. You can imagine how the scene unfolded once I was informed of my imminent doom. Off I ran as fast as my little legs would carry me, screaming all the way. I met my mom inside who was already armed with a rolled up magazine, ready for battle. She yelled for me and my sister to head into the bedroom, while she fended off the small enemies herself. We ran into the bedroom at the end of the hall, slammed the door, and began pulling ourselves together. Until, that is, I noticed I had a bee stuck in my ponytail. The screams erupted yet again and off we both ran to our hero to save us.
Truth be told, there isn’t another soul on this earth that knows how to push my buttons like my fellow bee-hater. That being said, I’ve wondered all my life why it is simply impossible for me to stay mad at her. We may be black and white on most things, but we are forever connected by the title (what I have come to recognize as an honor) of sister. The laughs we have shared together are too many to count. We are brought to tears over things most would feel barely merit a giggle. As children, we spent countless hours together playing house and school, accompanied one another to the bathroom when it was time for showers (one to shower and one to sit on the toilet to protect the other from the threat of boogie men that could enter the bathroom at any moment) and I always felt special to be the one and only person she trusted to pull her band aids off with my swift expertise.
I am the youngest of three girls. As I have grown and had children of my own, I have begun to unfold the priceless life lessons that I now understand were hidden in the relationships I had, and continue to have, with each of my siblings. For the most part, the three of us closely followed the typical characteristics of our birth order. The eldest was, and is, mature, independent, strong, a force to be reckoned with. The middle insists on doing everything at the last minute, flies by the seat of her pants, can light up any room with her ability to tell a story and brings much-needed humor and lightheartedness into our lives. And then there is me; the one that grew up studying the people my older sisters were and learning from their example (be it positive or negative). I was the smoother-outer. I hate conflict and disorder and always did all I could to keep our lives organized and everyone’s hearts protected.
Looking at my three children, and especially at the relationship between my two sons, I am left once again to marvel at the infinite wisdom of our Lord, as I realize how He prepared me to parent, appreciate and truly cherish what makes each of my children unique. I first began to understand it all several years ago when my two sons were sitting at the kitchen table doing homework. My eldest was trying his best to be responsible and dutifully get his work done. The middle guy was doing everything in his power to get his older brother’s attention and distract him from the work at hand. I listened to my eldest son’s patience dwindle with each request to his brother to be quiet and focus on his work. He laughed a little now and then but his brother just kept on pushing his buttons and finally he couldn’t take it anymore. He packed up his things and found somewhere else to do his work, while his brother sat dumbfounded at what could have possibly caused such a reaction. This exact scene could have been me and my sister thirty years ago. Black and white. Several years later, my eldest has yet to find another person who can get to him like his younger brother. There is no one that can make him as angry, and, thanks be to God, no one that can make him laugh quite like this quirky little man who I know he loves and is genuinely thankful for.
While I often joke that I can’t believe these two guys came from the same two people, I now believe that God’s wisdom in creating their unique qualities goes deeper than Him just wanting to watch and see how we would handle it. In reflecting on how much I’ve learned from my two sisters, I now know that the lessons my sons and daughter learn from one another will be invaluable and will be taught in ways that my husband and I couldn’t do on our own.
When we were blessed with our daughter almost five years ago, I have to admit my heart was gripped with fear over how she would “fit” into the family. New siblings always require an adjustment on everyone’s part, and I worried that our boys would have a hard time accepting the attention she would need and the love they would see us giving to this little stranger among us. As only God can do, He carefully crafted the perfect addition to our family and with this little woman came incredible lessons for our two sons. Perhaps most unexpected was the way our middle guy’s heart just crumbled for his sister. We suddenly found the one who would find no shame in taking the last Oreo out of the bag exploring the realm of selflessness and time and again putting his sister’s needs before his own. It remains a beautiful thing to witness and I thank God several times a day for gifting our family with the one and only person who could have opened our son’s heart in this way.
I am thankful for my sisters for many reasons, not the least of which is the way they unknowingly prepared me to understand and appreciate the people my children are. Today, April 10th, is National Sibling Day. I dare you to call your siblings and tell them you love them. I double-dog dare you to thank them for something they taught you that you never thought you’d be thankful for.