When I was six, I prayed with complete confidence. My mother was pregnant and I prayed for a sister. I remember kneeling by my bed with my mother beside me. I don’t remember her being pregnant the way I experienced my own pregnancies, sharing the size of my expanding belly with my older daughter and marking the baby’s growth by Mommy’s belly, but I remember knowing that my mom was pregnant. And I remember being convinced that God would understand why I needed a little sister.
There are so many reasons a six-year-old girl needs a little sister. I see them now rationally through my adult eyes, but I feel them still with six-year-old emotions. I remember longing for a playmate, for a real life doll of my own, for a sister. I don’t think a brother was ever an option in my world - brothers don’t play My Little Pony and Barbie and adventure girl. A brother, in fact, had no place in my plan.
So I prayed for a sister.
And Mom came home with a brother.
He spent his first year or two in the intensive care, sick with something or other, so I had a parade of babysitters. Then Mom had trouble with the postpartum, and I got Grandma. Things weren’t looking so bad with this brother deal. I soon forgot all about his gender in the important work of making his life miserable in the way only an older sister can. (He retaliated in kind.)
When he was three, our parents got divorced. Off we moved to the city, leaving the camp behind. I ended up moving back in with Dad, and he got remarried once (more brothers), divorced again, and then married again.
This time, he married someone quite a bit younger. And something amazing happened: she got pregnant. I was 16 at the time, delighted and not sure what to make of it. When we found out it was a girl, Dad reminded me of that prayer from ten years before.
My little sister is now 13. By simply being born, she was an answer to my prayer, my sincere request to God for a sister. I never had much of a chance to play My Little Pony or Barbies with her, because I was off to college and then off to the Big World of careers and marriage and now having my own family. It’s been in watching her with my daughter that I see a glimpse of what I really treasure in having a sister, in what I give my children when I give them siblings of their own. It’s in seeing her forget that she’s 13 and "cool," in seeing her lose her worries about her image, in seeing her live up to the hero status she has with my daughter, that I get a peek into the future woman she can become. It’s when I have been talking to her, when we’ve both just been ourselves unsupervised by other adults, that I have found out how her reasoning works, what her passions are, where she sees her life going (though not, of course, in so many words).
The age difference and miles between us have given us a relationship more like aunt and niece than sisters. It’s non-traditional at best and challenging at worst, but a blessing all the same. Her very existence is a proof to me of the power of prayer and the potency of simple faith. Having a sister is a reminder that God hears my prayers - all of them, even the ones from years ago that I have forgotten. His answers, in his time, are perfect, and just what I need.
About the Author
When she’s not chasing kids, chugging coffee, or juggling work, Sarah Reinhard’s usually trying to stay up read just one…more…chapter. She writes and works in the midst of rural farm life with little ones underfoot. She is part of the team for the award-winning Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, as well as the author of a number of books. You can join her for a weekday take on Catholic life by subscribing to Three Shots and follow her writing at Snoring Scholar.