By Shannon —

Like many people my age, I come from a blended family. There’s my mom, step-dad, step-sister, my two brothers and me. I was six when my mom got remarried and I am now 22. While it was challenging growing up in a blended family, it was rewarding, too. Looking back now, I wouldn’t trade my situation because, in the end, it gave me my family, and I wouldn’t change my family for anything in the world.

I was super excited when my mom was going to get married because my new step-dad had a daughter, and she was just two years older than I was. Kayla and I had a lot in common and I could not wait to be sisters. I remember the day our parents got married. They went to Las Vegas and we stayed with my Nana and watched the ceremony on the internet and it was then that we cemented our sisterhood.

While I loved having a big family, it had its drawbacks, too; more kids meant less money and we often struggled financially.  Kayla and I shared a room and so did my brothers. Kayla was only with us every other weekend, but I loved having her around—until I didn’t. We’d fight over toys, chores and especially clothes. I would hide her clothes that I wanted to borrow so she could not take them to her mom’s house and then we would fight. When we would fight, I always felt like the “red-headed step-child” because my step-father would always take her side. I think my parents played favorites, especially with my little brother, who is six years younger than I am. I often felt alone when Kayla was gone because my older brother was with his friends and my parents doted on my younger brother. This put a major strain on my relationship with my mom and we fought. A lot. Tensions ran high, especially when I was in high school until I eventually moved out at 17, during my senior year. There were so many times I hated my family and wished my mom had never remarried, but as I have gotten older, I understand more what my parents had to go through. Even though we battled, I always knew the loved me and would be there if I needed them.

Now that I am on my own, I am closer with my family than ever. My mom and I talk almost every day and I just became an aunt for the first time this month! My relationship with my step-father is thriving and my relationship younger brother is strong, even though I still think he is the favorite…As for my relationship with my sister, I am honored to be standing up for her in her wedding this summer as a bridesmaid. And I still steal her clothes.