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When kids experience puppy love, the bite can be sharp, painful, and often cruel when the love is one sided.

Just look at what happened with me and Donny Osmond — nothing. And me and fifth-grade crush Francis Schaefer — nothing.  And me and sixth-grade crush Greg Irick. Again, nothing.

I don’t have a great track record with my crushes.

Never mock a little one for her feelings of love and longing. Because the feelings are strange and untested, she feels the swoonies even more strongly.

The first time you fall in love, it can feel overwhelming. Flushes, racing heartbeat and sweaty hands are evidence that you have fallen deep into the well of love.

I was reminded of this when my son wailed from the back seat of the car, “Mom, I love her! Do you think she’ll want to marry me in eight years?”

My first instinct was to slam on the brakes. I’m not ready to be a mother-in-law! My second instinct was to do the math in my head. He’s 11 now, add eight, carry the one, no, don’t carry the one… oh geez, that’s 19! He wants to be married at 19? Math was never my strong suit.

Stop laughing.

The object of his mega-crush is a girl in his class. He’s known her since they were 5 years old, and in all that time, his affections have not wavered, not even once. Think about it — he’s been in love with one person half his life. It’s lasted longer than some Hollywood marriages.

First he liked her because of her kick ball abilities. She was one of the best kick-ballers in the entire class, in spite of her petite stature, and that deeply impressed my athletic-leaning son.

Later, he liked her for her wide grin, her long, dark hair, and her leggy grace. Now the kids attend different schools and he only gets to see her at Sunday school. How are you going to move your romance forward with pews and kneelers surrounding you?

It’s hard to be 11 with love on your mind. You have no transportation for your dates, unless you ask your parents to drive you.

Awkward. He’s not allowed to date yet anyway. This brings up a touchy point. Some of his friends already have girlfriends, and their parents do drive them on their dates. I don’t understand how parents are cool with their kids dating in sixth grade. My parents the Dictators — oops, did I say that out loud? — didn’t allow me to go on any dates until I was a junior in high school.

A guy I barely knew asked me to the prom. I strongly suspect I was the only girl in the school to say yes and probably the one he least wanted to take. The other girls had all said no. I still don’t know why he asked me. All during dinner, he played footsie with me. I didn’t say, “Hey, quit kicking me!” because I thought he was having involuntary leg spasms. I didn’t want to make him feel self-conscious.

Because we didn’t want our children to be raised by Dictators — oops, did I say that out loud again? — we allowed our daughter to go out on dates in high school. She went on group dates. She never asked to date anyone specific. Maybe we embarrassed her. It’s entirely possible we did that just by breathing.

I hope our son gets the courage up to ask out that nice little girl he’s been in love with for half his life. I hope I have the courage to tell him, “Sure, sweetie, go and have a good time!” without embarrassing the life out of him. And I hope he never feels the bite of unrequited puppy love.

Talk to Karen

Follow Karen on Twitter @KarenLeeGamble.

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