Model and actress Danielle Lineker is mum to Ella, 10, and step mum to Gary Lineker's boys, George, 21, Harry, 18, Tobias, 16, and Angus, 14. She talks to Parentdish about her own upbringing in a step family and life with Gary and the kids.
Ella is into the double figures, how are you finding that?
It's certainly different from the early years! She has her own mind and opinions and is incredibly strong willed. Although as Gary reminds me, 'the apple never falls far from the tree!'
What's your family set-up with the boys and Ella?
Ella is with us full time and sees her dad (ex-footballer Adam Willis) at weekends. The boys split their time between our house and their mum's, and as the older two drive it's pretty easy-going and relaxed all round really.
Do Ella and the boys get on?
Brilliantly, although she knows how to wind them up! I think the boy/girl mix really helped them settle with each other, and the boys are quite grown-up which also helps.
What sort of things is Ella into?
At the moment, mainly Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj! She's loves the outdoors though, and is always climbing trees and riding her bike. The boys' influence definitely helps with that I think, which I'm very grateful for. I am adamant she will not sit in front of the TV and computer when she could be out and about.
Does the pressure put on young girls in today's world worry you now Ella is nearing her teens?
It really does. It's one of the reasons she is at a school out in Surrey and not in London, as I would worry about her growing up in a big city. There's so much pressure for young girls to race to grow up and a huge amount of temptation way beyond her years around. She has her own mind and is a strong girl, which I think is vital today.
Having Gary's sons helps too as she certainly has no interest in boys after living with them!
You're supporting the Argos Toy Exchange with Barnardo's. What's the campaign all about?
You can donate unwanted children's toys at donation stations in Argos and Barnardo's stores around the country to help disadvantaged children. I've worked with Barnardo's before, and as a mum the charity and the campaign are very close to my heart. It's a great excuse to have a clear out too - which I really needed to do with Ella's stuff - and help your children understand how they can help other kids. Ella has a huge amount of things and is a real hoarder, so it was a battle of wills to get her to give things up!
You're from a step family yourself. Tell us about your experience growing up.
I was the oldest and my parents divorced when I was young. Having a step family was never an issue; it was just the way we lived and I always had half brothers and sisters in my life. It wasn't an issue and it shouldn't be one.
How were your first few years with Gary's boys?
We got on straightaway, but it takes so much time to form proper and close relationships with new people. It's a completely new set-up with new people and new personalities, which took time to settle. I remember meeting them all for the first time and I was so nervous! But we got there, slowly but surely. I think it really helped that they are such laid back boys, and Ella was a very young girl.
If Gary had four daughters it might have been a different story!
What is your advice for other step families?
It's all about time. Don't push and force anything, whatever the ages of the children and situation you're in. It's important to be patient and keep the lines of communication open.
No one, no matter who they are, will suddenly get on brilliantly with a brand new person in their life. Take it slowly.
There doesn't seem to be the help and support available for step families either, and step parenting is not spoken about enough. One in three families are now step, and it is so normal and natural, we just don't hear about it enough for people to realise. It needs to be more open and honest.
Do you think you will ever have children with Gary?
Well, never say never, and of course if we had one together we would be absolutely thrilled, but we haven't got any planned at the moment. Our house is busy enough!
Danielle Lineker is the ambassador for the Argos Toy Exchange, an initiative launched in partnership with Barnardo's to encourage families to donate toys to raise money for the UK's most disadvantaged children. To find out more information visit Argos.co.uk/toyexchange, or to donate visit your local Argos or Barnardo's store.
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