All the things ‘Three Men and a Little Lady’ taught me about love

If you were alive in the late ’80s/early ’90s, you may remember a little movie called Three Men and a Baby and its sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady – the latter of which turns 25 today. The original film (which was, interestingly enough, directed by Leonard Nimoy) introduced us to Peter, Jack, and Michael, played by ’80s hunks Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg, respectively. These guys suddenly find themselves playing surrogate dad to an infant girl left on their doorstep, with only a note claiming she’s the result of Jack’s fling with an actress named Sylvia. Of course, hilarity ensues as they attempt to juggle their bachelor lifestyles with their new duties as parents to Jack’s newly discovered daughter.

I love both these movies so much for so many reasons, but I prefer the sequel, which doesn’t happen very often. It takes place a few years later, when Mary is five years old and Sylvia has returned and moved in with the guys, where they all team up to help raise Mary together. The movie is fluffy and lighthearted, but one of those I can watch over and over again, especially when I’m having a bad day, for the rules of love that it continuously reminds me of – namely, that there really aren’t any.

So in honor of its 25th anniversary (and while I wait patiently to hear any news whatsoever about whether Three Men and a Bride will ever actually get made), here are some of the things Three Men and a Little Lady taught me about what real love, both familial and romantic, looks like.

Family is what you make of it

Sylvia and Jack may be Mary’s biological mother and father, but her parental influences don’t end there. Mary has not one but three “dads” in her life, so to speak, to help raise her. And unlike Full House’s Tanner sisters, she gets them all to herself. Lucky her! Sylvia, Jack, Peter, and Michael taught me that the best families are the ones who continually choose to lift each other up – and that the only ingredients that are mandatory for a “real” family are love and support. Take that, tradition.

Being around different kinds of people enriches your life

The adults who raise Mary couldn’t be more different. Her mother, Sylvia, is an ambitious dreamer who values kindness above all else. Peter is the somewhat cynical realist who finds his inspiration in Sylvia and Mary. Michael is a shy artist who’s still kind of learning about life, and seems to look up to the other two guys. And Jack is completely off the wall, which makes for the most interesting scenes in the movie. All these different influences give Mary a great start on establishing a well-rounded personality, and show us that an assortment of personality types is kind of the best thing to surround yourself with.

It’s possible to remain friends with an ex (and it can actually make life better)

Sylvia and Jack, even though they don’t end up together, are not only still friends – they live together. Granted, it’s as roommates, but their relationship is so unconventional. Jack is still a flirt, but it’s in a very innocent way, and he’s very protective of both Sylvia and Mary, his biological daughter. Jack even fully supports Peter and Sylvia’s mutual romantic interest, and is the one to eventually persuade Peter to tell Sylvia how he feels about her. The lesson here is not all exes are better off out of your life!

We all say things we don’t mean when love is involved

Everyone who has seen this movie remembers that fight between Peter and Sylvia where Peter throws the fact that she Mary on the guys’ doorstep in Sylvia’s face. We remember it all too well, because we can still feel the sting from Sylvia’s hand slapping the usually well-mannered Peter right across the face.

Eventually, everything works out, but this is a super realistic moment reminding us that sometimes we say things totally out of character to elicit emotion from the people we love. And even if it’s not the best decision, especially in the heat of the moment, at least Sylvia and Peter prove that we aren’t alone.

Practice/fake/“acting” kisses are a great litmus test

One of my favorite scenes in the whole movie is when Peter agrees to help Sylvia practice her lines for a play she’s in. In the scene, the script calls for Peter’s character to kiss Sylvia’s, but she’s the one who does the kissing – that is, until Peter calls out her mistake and kisses her again. Because, you know, it has to be accurate. Totally nothing to do with him wanting to kiss her again. And when he does, we all swoon, because we know what’s going on under that thinly veiled “It’s for the art/greater good” façade.

See also: The Wedding Singer. “Church tongue” – you know what I’m talking about.

The ones who have your back will do the craziest things for you

This movie is full of three grown men getting into some crazy antics to make a five-year-old little girl and her mom happy. Instead of telling Mary a bedtime story or singing her a lullaby, they perform a rap song, complete with embarrassing 1990-appropriate ensembles that would make even the most fashionably challenged cringe. But also laugh uncontrollably because, I mean…look at them.

Peter tells Mary stories about the future. Michael continually updates the mural that covers the apartment walls with pictures of Mary reaching various milestones as she grows up. And of course, we can’t forget Jack, who dons full makeup and poses as a vicar at the end of the movie to make sure Sylvia doesn’t legally marry the wrong guy. Um, how do I go about finding friends like this?

It’s never too late to tell someone how you feel

Yes, Three Men and a Little Lady is one of those movies where the guy works up the guts to tell the woman how he feels, and he does it at her wedding. This is not original, but it doesn’t matter at all in this movie because it’s sweet and genuine, and the entire plot builds up the dynamic between Peter and Sylvia so much that by the end you’re rooting for him to kick Sylvia’s snobby fiancé to the curb and run off into the sunset with her and Mary – a sunset that leads to an NYC apartment they can continue to share with Michael and Jack, of course. Because really, where else would they go at that point? But anyway, life is too short to hold your feelings in. And since you don’t live inside a movie (as cool as that would be), maybe choose a time before your intended’s wedding day to let those feelings out.

I’ll also take this opportunity to tell my mother how I feel: I finally understand your obsession with Tom Selleck, Mom. I never thought I’d fight you over a celebrity dude and it may have taken 30 years, but alas, here we are. I promise I’ll let you keep Antonio Banderas…for now.

(Images via Touchstone Pictures)