How To Explain Marriage to a 3 Year Old

I see him looking up at the walls, eyeing those pictures. In that little three-year-old brain of his, he is wondering if those people in the pictures are really his Mommy and Daddy. He is questioning why Mama looks like a princess. He is trying to remember if he was there.

Every once in a while we talk about those pictures on the wall. We tell him about the time, before he was around, when Mommy and Daddy got married.

Wedding Photo

Married. Marriage.

It is a big concept for such a little guy. So I explain it, little by little, bit by bit, story by story. Because I want him to know.

To my sweet eldest boy, who understands these words, and to my sweet youngest boy, who is just learning them: We got married five years ago because of you.

Marriage, for us, meant the beginning of something beautiful. It was the knitting together of two lives to form one family. It was the foundation from which the rest of our lives will be based on. It was commitment. It was understanding. It was creation. ‘I do‘ bonded us for life as we chose, right then and there, to be a family.

Someday you’ll learn that babies don’t all come from marriages and neither do all families. And when you’re older I’ll explain that Mommy wasn’t really a princess that day and that a marriage isn’t a fairy tale and that a commitment is more than just words and that you have to really, truly, be willing to work and that marriage is about respect and communication and that love is more than a feeling and that some things are better when you wait for them.

But today, on this day when you are three and your brother is one and all that you’ve ever known is Mommy and Daddy as a mommy and a daddy, I want you to know that we chose to be a family five years ago today. And we keep choosing this family ever day.

I love you and I love your brother but I love your Daddy more, and that is okay, because this love, this daily choice, is the stable foundation that cocoons our family. You live in this love. You are our love. Both of you – all the  walking, talking, unique parts of your individual personhoods – you are both such a beautiful manifestation of this love, of that choice, five years ago today.

And you can see what love is by living in it. Love is coming home to each other at the end of the day. Love is working together to get things done. Love is helping and knowing when to step aside. Love is the stolen kisses and ignoring eye rolls. Love is messing up and saying sorry and finding forgiveness. Love is the constant every day good and bad and beautiful and hard. Love is remembering how I felt about your Daddy five years ago today and knowing that in 30 years we will still be holding strong.

Happy fifth anniversary to both my dear husband and to my darling boys.

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About Laura O'Rourke

Laura is a Mom of three who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Currently on maternity leave, she blogs about life at home with her husband Dan and three sons Cameron (age 5), Gavin (age 3), and Logan (not yet 1). When she has time, she can be found reading, writing, snapping photos, or awkwardly running. Laura has been recognized as one of Canada's Top 10 Mom Bloggers by multiple publications, including Reader's Digest. Keep up with the fun by following @LauraORourke on Twitter or liking Mommy Miracles on Facebook. Like what you see? Have something to add? Be sure to leave a comment!


  1. Oh, Laura, happy anniversary. It’s always interesting trying to explain things to our children (although I’m kinda done with the whole “it’s so so sad your penis fell off, Mommy” discussion). Giving our children the reason behind being married can be so inspirational and long-lasting. Hopefully, when we celebrate, it shows them “real” rather than the nonsense they’re constantly seeing in the media about month-long marriages (though, I do also intend to teach them that it ain’t always all happy and joy and that yes, there were times during our marriage when I had to remind myself I am way too cute for jail).
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  2. This is a lovely post, Laura. It’s hard to teach our kids what marriage is. Eddie asks a lot. He loves to say I was a princess…actually he says I am still the princess in our house because there are no other girls. I’ll take it. We let him see our wedding video and talk about love and wanting to be with someone who can help you when stuff is hard. I love that you say that when you got married you chose family. You chose them…even though they weren’t with you yet. You chose love.

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  3. Holy geez you look so young in your wedding pic :) I still haven’t figured out how to explain when the time comes that mommy was married before (when even I try to block that time out of my mind, LOL)
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  4. Wow…just so beautiful! I love this…and happy anniversary!
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  5. This is beautiful I may steal this if/when my kids ever ask about marriage.
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  6. Happy 5th to you and your happy bunch! My daughter loves to look at the album all the time and refers to it “the day momma met her prince”. But yes. Its not all fairy tale and roses . I explain bits and pieces to each child and they are still learning the meaning of commitment and love. I love “we choose love every day”, so simple yet so powerful that statement. Many happy more years !
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  7. Whata beautiful sentiment to share with your boys. Happy anniversary….you two look like such babies!! Gorgeous, happy, loving babies. :)
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  8. JenyRedfield says:

    Such a beautiful couple!!! Happy anniversary! Do you have a plans for this day?
    My eldest daughter, she is 3.7 still thinks that it was my birthday )

  9. Happy (late) Anniversary!
    We didn’t have a wedding or even that many photos, so for us, explaining marriage will have to come from a different place. If it’s ever asked at all. :)
    And I love everything about this post.
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  10. Oh Laura, this is so, SO sweet Everything you say about marriage is true. And your commitment to your marriage and family is something that all should admire and aspire to.

    Happy FIVE years to your and yours. And here’s to many, MANY more!!

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