Toddling After My Sister
Fifteen years later, she’s still making an impact on my life.

It was a particularly pretty day in Georgia. My mother, sister and I were driving home in our big white van from some location that has since slipped my mind. I was about 5 years old, which means my sister was about 7. We were casually talking to our mother while looking out the window, anxious to return home. I fiddled with my booster seat, thinking about something of no great importance when … it happened.

“Oh!” my sister gleefully exclaimed. She put her face closer to the glass of the window and pointed to a yard that was quickly flying by. “I just saw the cutest little toddler!”

And that was it.

That was the thing that caused me to stop all my 5-year-old thoughts and stare blankly at my sister. Once I was able to erase the confusion and shock from my expression and thoughts, I blurted out, “What’s a toddler?!

My sister fluently explained what exactly a toddler was, and then we parked in our driveway; she opened the door and hopped out like it was no big deal. I was still in a mild state of shock. I had never heard my sister use a word I didn’t recognize before. And this seemed like a really, really big word.

After we went inside, I went up to my mom.

“Mommy,” I said, pulling her skirt to get her attention, “Do you know what a toddler is?”

“Yes, dear. I do.”

Later on, with this perplexing topic still on my mind, I asked my sister where she acquired such a word for her vocabulary.

“I think I read it somewhere,” came the casual reply.

You read it somewhere?! To me, that was seriously cool. The fact that she would read something, see a word she probably didn’t completely understand, and have the willingness to look it up and remember it seemed almost too smart for my 5-year-old likings. It was fantastic. And it helped her—and me—in the long run.

Right then and there, I decided that I would learn all the words my sister did. Back then, I had to do everything my sister did. It was an unwritten rule of life. So I read every Nancy Drew book she did and reread them when she did. I would look at her notes during services and write down all the deep, insightful things any 7-year-old would draw out of a sermon. I became more aware of what people said in conversation, even though it would often induce a furrowed brow when the realization came that my vocabulary was very limited.

Now, when our mother covered English skills during home school, I paid more attention—and consequently found that I actually enjoyed learning such things. By this time, I had gotten a bit older, and I read books quite a lot. Going on trips to the library was one of the best things that ever happened to my sister and me at that age. My parents condoned this behavior, and that helped our love of reading to grow. My mom would always try to make time to take us to what we called “the big library.” It had multiple levels and huge, stuffed animals on top of the bookshelves that excited little people like my sister and me.

The point is this: God doesn’t provide siblings to nag at you and bring annoyance into your life. He gives you exactly what you need to grow. God gave me my sister for specific reasons, one of those being to build my love for reading, writing and for anything that contained words.

God is our Creator (Genesis 1:27; 2:2-4). He is the one who has given us our personalities, strengths and weaknesses; He is the one Who places us into our specific families. He knows everything that you need long before you realize it yourself (Matthew 6:8, 32). For whatever reason, God knew that I would need a sister who used big words before I did. He knew that it would impact me and that I would want to learn big words because that’s what my sister did.

Don’t get me wrong: My sister has always had more of an affinity for books and scholarly things than I do. Sometimes, I chose to play cowboys and Indians with a rope and a piano bench instead of reading. When we reached our teenage years, my sister was the one with the big, fat book titled Pride and Prejudice sitting on her shelf. I remember walking into her room, picking it up, and huffing at the sheer size of it before putting it back down and wishing my sister good luck. But she didn’t mind. She gushed that it was such a splendid novel as I walked out of her room. She didn’t mind the size or the seemingly ancient text contained therein.

Now that I’m older, I have my own interests and hobbies. But I still like words, writing and reading—and I have my sister to thank for that. And every so often, I still find out that I want to do everything that my sister does.

If you have siblings, there is probably a good chance that you can relate to this. Whether you have younger siblings, older siblings, or are an only child, the family you are placed into will help you grow. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. So pay attention: You never know when your sibling will catch you by surprise.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the word “toddler” is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “One who toddles, especially a young child learning to walk.”