That's not to say I'm about to set her little heart loose. I want to give her enough space to ride the waves of puppy love and grade-school heartache, but be there to guide her when the waters get too rough. Some of this stuff is still hard for grown-ups to figure out — there are shelves of self-help books to prove it — so she'll need some help to translate how she feels.
Besides, didn't we all at one point have that first schoolyard crush? All of this has had me thinking back to my own. His name was Michael. He was 7 years old with dark brown hair and blue eyes, and he sat quietly across the row from me in class. I was sure that I loved him. I carefully printed his name in my diary; I told my mom all about him and she listened, interested but not interfering. At the end of the year his family moved away, and I cried knowing he was gone.
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It was the first of an endless string of crushes and briefly broken hearts, each one a tiny milestone, collectively teaching me a lot about myself and my capacity to feel everything from adoration to utter devastation. Looking back, puppy love was an essential and important part of my childhood; it didn't spell the end of innocence, it was part of it. I hope that my own daughter will one day be able to say the same.