If you were a non-parent, you would consider a little one to be crazy to be asking such a question. But if you are a parent, you have been ‘proposed to’ by your child many times already, isn’t it?! I, as a parent, am no different. My sons have said to me at different times, ” Mom, I want to marry you”. A couple of times I did find it funny, but I realized that they really meant it.
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What is marriage?
It is a social contract where two members of different families come together and agree to be the wedded partner of each other. They agree to be loyal and bring up a family together. They understand that they will serve different responsibilities of the house, of care and nurture, and work as a family unit. I have absolutely avoided the term of men and women because of the diverse marriage and family set-ups we live among today! So, we really need to stop seeing marriages as a couple of ‘husband and wife’ alone. However, for this article, I’m speaking from my own experience, so I will be talking about a straight couple marriage.
What is Marriage for a Kid?
It is most often seen that children want to marry the parent of the opposite gender. Like, baby boys want to marry their mother, and little girls want to be their father’s loving wife.
It clearly indicates that children have a certain understanding of what their father and mother are.
They are two individuals who live together and get to decide things for everyone. They get to become the boss and appear as the most important people for each other. A husband and wife are the decision-makers, caregivers, and providers of all needs, as a team!
Why do kids say, “Mom, I want to marry you?”
So, when a boy says, “Mom, I want to marry you”, all they want is for them to be the most important person in your life. They want to be able to make decisions with you and take care of you in their own ‘strong’ way. They want to be protective and provide for you, mimicking the role of their father in the equation.
Whereas, when little girls say, “Daddy, I want to marry you”, they want to be the one you pay the most attention to. They want to care for you and nurture you in their own way. They often like to dress up and look perfect before Papa gets home, and often invite him to their tea parties and serve the tastiest of snacks and tea for him.
I say this out of my understanding of the natural instinct of both genders. Boys are more fierce and protective, and girls are more kind, nurturing, and loving.
But are they serious? Do they mean it?
This is your child’s first attempt at making a strong relationship with the person of the opposite gender. They may want to look into their parents’ eyes lovingly, require more skin to skin contact ( I allow them to touch my jiggly – wobbly belly for those reasons), or may even spike jealousy between the same-gender parents. For eg, if your baby boy says that “Mom, I want to marry you”, it may be quite likely that they are jealous of their father.
They can express jealousy and “utter dislike” in many ways. Kids may cast the other parent as a villain in their role-playing games. They may never choose their side while playing, or not want to share their food and other important things with them. Like my sons, they would become Mario & Luigi, they would cast me as Princess Peach, and their father was either an evil alligator or the Fire Dragon from the Mario game. They would always “protect” me from the evil alligator.
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It is cute, it is amusing, but it is also a very crucial aspect of them growing up, understanding relationships, and expressing strong amounts of love.
So, What happens after “Mom, I want to marry you?”
The intentions of your children are very neat and pure. They want to be the most precious person in your life, period.
But how to make them understand that this isn’t what marriage is all about?
There are two approaches to this.
One may choose to play along with them and agree to marry them when they grow up, or even have a pretend ceremony and continue as partners as a role play. That works great, it depends on the comfort level of the child and the parent.
On the other hand,
One may choose to explain to them that they can’t get married to us.
If you tell them that they cannot marry us because children cannot marry parents, they are going to give you a very puzzled look. They love you the most, and they want to be your most loved one, then why can’t they marry you? That’s going to be a very complicated discussion and explanation for their hearts (the brains are not in the picture yet!)
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What Can you Rather Say to them?
Here are some options you can use, that appeal to the logic capabilities of their mind, and are also correct. So when they say, “Mom, I want to marry you”, you can say
- “You need to marry someone your own age, and I am clearly quite older than you. Marriages happen among equals”.
- “You can marry only when you grow up above 18 years of age, the law mandates that”.
- It helps if you can give examples of how none of their friends are married, how none of their cousins (slightly older ones, of course) aren’t married.
- “You cannot marry your Mom because she is already married to your Dad!” A person can remain married to just one person at a time, and for now, you are taken! (I’m chuckling hard as I type this because my son was literally heartbroken when I told him this)
- You can have one relationship with one person – like you can be a parent and child, or siblings, or aunt/uncle and niece/nephew, or grandchild. You cannot have multiple relationships with people, except being friends. If they confess about having a crush on a classmate, talk to them about it without making it a big deal. Tell them that if they want to marry the person, they will have to wait till they both are 18 years old and then think in the direction. Children are not allowed to marry, so they must divert their attention. They can be very close friends with the other person, though. Little children cannot marry and it is inappropriate for children of their age to talk about marriage with their classmates or friends.
Children are really innocent and they take things at literal meanings. Their soft little hearts are too naive to understand and accept the social norms and rules that we as humans have built for ourselves. Love happens at all ages, in fact, many people get married to their “childhood crush” because that really is a thing. But ensure that you deal with their emotions carefully and give them advice without making fun of them or feeding inappropriate behavior into them. Respect their feelings and convey the mentioned information with them in a “matter-of-fact” pattern.
I loved writing this blog as it is based on true experiences and conversations between me and my sons. I tried my best to be able to solve this tricky situation for parents because our child having a crush on us is actually heavenly! The kind of love becomes different when they grow up, but as per their interpretation of love – love doesn’t have kinds, it just has degrees and they choose you to give you the utmost high degree of their love!
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yes I know these kind of things happened very often when kids asked or want something unexpected. recently my little one was asking why and how you had choose papa to get marry? of course, this kind of questions make us little stuck and we have to think properly before answering them. I really like your suggestions for answering and explaining kids of he/she said that I want to marry you.
These happen so often and going to the extent of my son kissing me on the lips. Handling such scenarios is not easy but with constant talking and explaining using ways, that you mentioned in your blog, they eventually understand. These are such significant matters and if not handled well, can scar them emotionally too.
Oh I have had small boys wanting me to be their girlfriend or wife but my kids haven’t gotten into this stage as yet. They do play with roles by themselves though… I have to keep an eye and ear out while they do role plays too…
Prisha, this is a really insightful post and while I’ve heard kids say this in the past haven’t really delved deeper. Thank you for sharing the psychologist angle to this.
We had this kinda situation when my daughter was around 2 years old. She proposed her Dad and he agreed. She was over the moon and assured me that I could live with Dad too. There was a bit of jealousy too sometimes if he complimented me before her. It was super cute and I was glad we handled it well.
I could totally relate to the content of your post Prisha. Good that you’ve addressed this issue
Loved your post Prisha…. well my son has the habit of kissing me n saying I love you end no of times in a day n he has literally taken me away when my husband n I were talking and givening the “i took her away” smile to my husband. My husband actually gets jealous of my son. 🤦♀️
True.. I have heard many kids say this. Av hasn’t yet started it. It’s cute isn’t it?
Prisha, I liked the sensitive ways you have mentioned to answer the child’s question. Instead of making fun of these emotions, explaining it in simpler terms is helpful. A helpful post for many parents out there.
This is such a lovely post, Prisha. You have explained such a complicated question in the simplest way a mom can handle. Well articulated post with perfectly chosen words. Thanks for writing this.
I’m yet to get into this stage. Your post is giving me a heads-up already.
Prisha being a mom of two boys now I am looking forward to this stage. Although I am Gurmeher’s favourite person and sometimes he even doesn’t want my husband to sit besides me. Your suggestions are going to be really helpful in this case.
Well, this is such a relatable post Prisha! My son always gets a little jealous when I and my hubby give a hug or sit together. In his playful way, he always comes in between and says its time for a family hug or family time. He has told me 2-3 times that he wants to marry me too, but luckily for me, having an extended family with lots of chachus for Ayaansh, I tell him that none of his chachus are married and so cant he. He kind of agrees to it and says I will marry when I grow big enough. So time being, its sorted.
Ab bade hone ke baad kya hoga bhagwan hi jaane!