Trisha Yearwood Has "Learned Her Way" as the "Third Parent" in Garth Brooks' Children's Lives

The country icon is grateful to "be a part of [Brooks' daughters'] lives

As many are aware, Trisha Yearwood is the stepmom of Garth Brooks' three daughters Taylor, August and Allie, from his marriage to his ex-wife Sandy Mahl. The superstar two-some have been together since 2005 though. And over the past 16 years -- as Yearwood tells PEOPLE -- she's "learned [her] way, and is grateful that the "The Thunder Rolls" singer's three daughters have "allowed me to be that third parent in their lives."

Continuing, she adds the poignant note that, "[Brooks' three daughters] were a gift that I didn't know I needed. I didn't know how much children brought into your life until I got a chance to be a part of their lives." As well, she humorously notes, "I had a dog before I married Garth but no children of my own. I never even really babysat! So I didn't know what to do with three young girls. Garth was such a wonderful mentor to me as to how to be a parent, and he told me, 'You'll find your way with each of them. Don't try to be their best friend, and don't try to be their mom.'"

Though she famously contracted COVID-19 in the past year, she notes that the family bonding time that quarantine has allowed has been essential. "We've been together basically 24/7," she says. "We kind of lost that as we got busier in our lives, and I think that getting that time back was really valuable for us as a family, especially for me being a bonus mom."

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