Families aren't always blood but they're always love: growing up in a blended family
Not all families are built the same and not all families are blood.
When you're a child you just accept what is around you as the norm.
I never really realised I grew up that much more differently than anyone else until I made friends with kids who had the more traditional family unit.
Even now married with my own children, it's strange sometimes to think how much differently they are growing up to how I remember my childhood.
My parents split when I was very small so I spent some my time living with my mam and grandmother and the rest living with my dad, stepmam and half siblings (I've always just called them my siblings though).
At the time I didn't realise the blessing of having 'bonus family' as I've heard it called, but now as an adult I'm so grateful to have so many loving people in my life.
When I talk about bonus family, I don't so much mean my brother and sister but their mam, who although not blood related, has always treated me like family.
She would bring me along to her family's special occasions like birthday parties and always treated me the same as her own kids (even if that meant getting given out to).
Even after she and my dad broke up, she always stayed in contact with me and even calls my kids her step-grandkids.
My parents were teenagers when I was born so it was very much 'it takes a village' when it came to raising me.
My grandparents, aunts, uncles and even older cousins played a huge part in rearing me which I credit to why I've become a human encyclopedia, having gathered up all their advice and interests.
As well as my two actual siblings many of my cousins were very much my siblings growing up too, even living with me at some points.
While I don't have memories of opening up my Christmas gifts with my siblings as I spent Christmas day with my mam, I do have memories of opening them up with my cousins.
My older cousins gave me 'the talk', snuck me into horror movies I wasn't supposed to see, brought me to concerts and gave me some harsh fashion critiques in my early teens (looking back they were right).
My younger cousins were the ones I looked out for, joked around with and mostly got in trouble with.
I'm so close to one of my cousins that as teenagers we would swap diaries with each other if we went a couple of days without talking and even now it's rare if we don't voice note each other several times a day.
One way that the pandemic hit me really hard was not being able to see my family.
I'm extremely close to my family and both sides of my family regularly do family dinners, nights out and reunions with everyone from my grandparents to my fourth cousin twice removed.
The first lockdown was particularly difficult and I'm so glad that restrictions are now lifting and we can get back to hugging the life out of each other.
My sister also lives abroad now so I haven't seen her in months and think a trip over to see her might need to be arranged soon.
My kids are not being raised in a blended family but if your children are, don't fret for a second.
Not only will they be grand, they won't know themselves for all the love and attention they're about to receive.
Family is not always blood, it is not always having both your mam and dad, but it is always love.
(Also for the record, I did not cut my own fringe in the photo above of me in the pink jacket. Although it looks like something a toddler would do it was actually cut by my grandmother. She was a lovely woman but she should never have been let near a scissors.)