I’m number 3 (the best number of course) out of 6 children. Let that sink in. That is a LOT of children. As the years pass by, as we all get older and grow into the adults and citizens we were meant to be, I learn so many valuable lessons about family bonds, sibling love and rivalry and what kind of role model I want to be in my own family one day.

36, 32, 26, 19, 15 and 14; we not only range in age greatly, but in personality, appearance, interests and in how we love one another. As a middle child, I’ve always felt like an observer, closely connected to my older siblings and my younger siblings.

As a young child, I always helped babysit my younger siblings, quickly learning lots of big sister responsibilities like how to make a bottle and how to let your little sister hit you when you made her cry so she wouldn’t tell on you (important stuff). More importantly, I learned how quickly they grew close to me and how much they looked up to me. As I got older, I felt more and more pressure to be the best person I could be, not only because my personality requires that of me, but because I knew I had 6 little eyes always watching! What a blessing. As a younger sister of 2, I often felt like (and still do most of the time) I always had protection. Someone who loved me greatly always had my back. Bam, another blessing too beautiful to really put into words.

Now that we are growing older and “the babies” are no longer the babies (instead, one is college and the other 2 are halfway through high school), it’s fascinating to see how our dynamics work with each other and inevitably clash against each other. We have our own beliefs, we’ve made our own mistakes and we are evolving into people who are not defined by the toys we played with or the rooms we shared, but how we raise our children, how we call each other even when life is jam packed and how we lift each other up.

There are a few important lessons I’m learning each day that really help me ‘gel’ and stay close with my family.

• There is no such thing as a half sibling. We were raised under the same roof and no matter what our DNA looks like, we love each other equally and fully.

• Just because we are related, doesn’t mean we will believe in the same things. In fact, I’m learning that being related doesn’t actually mean much of anything! We are uniquely different in our belief systems, our ambitions, our faith and just about everything else you can possible think of. The most important part about this realization? It’s perfectly ok. Siblings are not supposed to be the same people. What a silly concept. These differences are what make our family dynamics so…dynamic!

• If you’re the common denominator in multiple conflicts, it’s probably you. No really. It’s you. I am in no way claiming to be innocent or trying to be offensive here. I’ve been there. When I wasn’t in a great place in my life, I was the first one to find conflict, be negative and argue with people I love. It’s toxic behavior and it was just unfair to the people who loved me. Important lesson here: Love them through that hard time. There is usually a reason someone in your family (or in your life in general) is being difficult or negative and it probably has nothing to do with you. Be patient with them but hold them accountable.

• You will inevitably be closer in some capacity to certain siblings over others. It took me a long time to understand and accept this. I wanted to be close to everyone! But just as we are our own people, we will naturally gravitate towards certain people because of interests, age and experiences shared as we grew up. This is not a negative thing. This is reality. Work on loving endlessly towards all siblings and embracing those beautiful relationships that are truly one in a million.

• The most fun times for our family today is sharing the memories we made growing up. All of the funny ridiculous moments that took place with each other over the years and of course making more. Take time to embrace these moments. They are so beautiful. It’s truly one of the things that warms my heart more than anything.

Having a big family is something I want for my own partner and I. Growing up in the household that I did, there’s something magical about big holiday dinners and loud and energetic late night drinks and talk sessions. As I make my way into my late 20’s, I visualize the things that made my sibling relationships so special growing up and the things that make them so beautiful today. I hope I can facilitate an environment full of love and compassion for one another the way that my mom did for us (if we fought with each other, she made us sit in timeout hugging each other which ultimately turned into the biggest laughing session ever). There’s nothing wrong with looking at your own life and family and setting goals about how you want to raise your family. It’s quite powerful to acknowledge all of the positive and work around the negative.

It’s been said a million times, but love those who you consider family. Keep those who would truly do anything for you close. To family!

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post