We are family - Part 1

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They say you can’t pick your family...

Now I have a son of my own, family has taken on a whole new and important meaning. I’m very grateful for the family Ashton has been born into so I’ve decided to write about the ins and outs of my family circles, starting with the family I was brought up with.

I come from the Balderston clan.

I have two older half-sisters, one older half-brother, one identical twin sister and two younger brothers. That means I also have three brother-in-laws, two sister-in-laws, two nieces and three nephews. There’s a mum and dad to throw in to the mix too (of course!).

Okay, so we’re not all Balderstons – but we are all FAMILY. We’re one big, crazy, chaotic family.

If you’re thinking “Brady Bunch”, think again. Being in my family is hard work.

We’re confrontational and we like to lay it all out on the table, to get everything out in the open. That means lengthy discussions and heated debates around the dinner table. If you’re eating with us, you better have an opinion to share because you will be asked about it and it will be discussed at length, whether you like it or not.

We’ve also had some epic dramas, which is bound to happen when you get a large group of people with in one place.

Even so, I’ve never thought of my family as anything other than perfect.

It wasn’t until I started dating Olly that I realised we were FAR from perfect. One night he said “Man, your dinner conversations last for ages!”, and another time he remarked “Wow, things really got heated back there.”

Did they? I hadn’t even noticed.

He could really only compare my family with his family, and once we got to know each other well, we’d chat about what made these two families different. Suddenly I started to see things from a different perspective.

We were loud, we talked over each other, we didn’t know how to walk quietly (heavy-foot syndrome) and we had a tendency to make a big deal out of nothing.

I’m just being honest (sorry, fam if you’re reading this!).

BUT and it’s a big butt – ahem, sorry I mean a big but.

There’s a lot of love that happens in my family. Whenever we’re all in one place, it’s a really big deal. The last time that happened, (except unfortunately, for one brother-in-law and one sister-in-law) we had professional photos taken because it was such an occasion!

There is something really special about sharing life with a whole bunch of different people.  You learn to connect with introverts, extroverts and everything in between. You learn that it’s not just about you all the time. Most importantly you learn the importance of surrounding yourself with love and support. After all, no man is an island, right? Your family is like your army (I’ve got a massive army).

You learn that no argument, or drama, or “heated debate” is worth stewing over or getting bitter about, because underneath it all is just this big blanket of forgiveness and love.

Memories of my siblings vary from laughs, to cries, to being bullied, to being forced to share, to having gigantic birthday parties and buffet-type dinners around the table. Just being TOGETHER just feels like home not matter the reason and no matter the place. I count myself incredibly lucky for that.

It’s a messy, chaotic, hilariously funny, family dynamic that has contributed so strongly to the person I am today.

Mum, Dad, Sara, Simon, Maia, Rylee, Karen, Thomas, Braxton, Caleb, Ollie, Bradley, Maggie, Ashley, Nathan, Seth, Letitia, James, Oliver and Ashton, I hope you know that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I didn’t forget anyone, did I?

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Rachel Chen