As the oldest child, for almost four glorious years I had my parents all to myself. Everything revolved around little Kaci, which I now know wasn’t such a good thing. Then, something shifted in my universe when my mom brought home a new baby girl.
The rest of my adolescence was defined by a love-hate relationship with this new family member, which I now see mimicked by my own set of small children. But at my core, I wanted to protect my little sister and loved her more than anything. Sure, there were certain seasons in my life where she was more annoying others. It wasn’t so fun when I started driving and she tried to jump in my car every time I cranked it. And I wasn’t really excited about the two of us sharing the same school building during my junior and senior year in our tiny hometown.
Nevertheless, I loved her dearly. My husband and I agreed every kid should have a sibling if possible, and my sister is one half of the reason we had our second baby. My brother-in-law would be the other half. We both enjoyed growing up with someone, but more than anything we like having an adult friend who shares all of our life experiences and crazy family secrets.
That’s not to say that my sister and I never have a cross word or that we agree on everything as adults. And while it may fade with age, sibling rivalry never fully goes away. It may not be the burning fire it was in adolescence, but there’s still a few ashes left that never fully cooled down. All it takes is for something to poke them or stir them up, and a new flame can flare up in no time.
A few years ago, I struggled with some hot ashes rising in me as my sister seemed to “succeed” me in life. In a world where most kids “outdo” their parents, I have less education than anyone in my immediate family. Both of my parents actually worked in the education field, with my dad having a PhD and my mom having a master’s degree. Meanwhile, I was perfectly content with my BA in Communications . . . until my sister went to law school.
Looking back, I can see that I have subconsciously felt insecure about this even before then. I had taken several master-level classes in two different fields and also accepted a job at a university in my mid-20s. None of these made me happy though, and deep down I knew the motive behind them was to keep up with peers and impress my highly educated parents.
Both of my parents were so proud when I landed a job as an editor at our family’s alma mater. A few years later when I decided to quit it and work from home, I was ashamed to tell them. All I ever wanted was to create and tell stories, while my sister kept getting more education and climbing the corporate ladder. Sitting in an office 8 to 5 sucked the life out of me, but part of me felt guilty about giving it up. That part was my insecurity of possibly not having my parents’ acceptance.
As the oldest, I had been the “first” to do everything. Now, as adults, my little sister had surpassed me. I didn’t want to feel this way, especially about my sister. I had been her biggest cheerleader and coach growing up, but now she no longer needed me. At least, that’s what I thought. She kept making my parents proud, while I joked that I had to start having kids to make them happy.
Then, I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 12, where the Bible speaks about the different kinds of gifts and services the Spirit gives to all believers. I have total confidence that I could have stuck it out through grad school or kept succeeding in an office environment, but that wasn’t what God designed me to do. I would be doing so to please people and not God, which is exactly what I did for many years.
I begin to concentrate on all the tasks and skills that come easily to me and that I enjoy. This included offering my creative skills to help with my church and local non-profit organizations. As I began to use the gifts and talents God gave me, rather than trying to be something I’m not to impress others, God began to bless me. I now have more work than I could have ever gotten without God’s favor, and it’s the kind of work I enjoy.
As for my little sister, I no longer feel inferior to her or like I need to compete with her for my parent’s affection. Last month, we all gathered together for her wedding. It was a small ceremony on a farm in Georgia, and she looked beautiful as ever. Since our parents are divorced, I didn’t expect her to put them both at the head reception table. However, I was a little surprised to see my place card right beside of the bride’s.
I sat down and smiled to myself. Once she sat beside me, I halfway joked, “You’ve got your priorities right, putting the siblings at the head table. I feel important.” She smiled at me and said, “Well, you are important.” In that moment, it was if we had come full circle and I knew that I was still important to her. Most of all, I’m important to God and I’m only at my best when I’m my best self, not when I’m trying to live someone else’s life.