Lately it seems the best conversations start with these simple words: “Mom, can I tell you something?”

For the life of me I can’t understand why my first-grader prefaces her true-life confessions with these words. Maybe I do the same thing. That often is the reason. Whatever the case, my answer to young Elizabeth never varies: “Always.”

That’s her cue to reveal her secret, and she does. Yesterday it was that a boy in her class can’t seem to resist holding her hand.

“Again?!” I exclaimed.

“Yup,” she said, “But I told him about no holding hands and he just made a sad face.”

Ah, youth. I suppress a giggle and tell her I can’t blame the poor boy. After all, my daughter is quite adorable with rosy cheeks, big blue eyes behind smudged little glasses, and blonde hair, usually pulled up in a ponytail.

“He can’t resist you, Liz,” I told her. “Nobody can.”

She rolled her eyes and asked, “Then why won’t he just admit it?”

“Admit what?” I said.

“That he LOVES ME?!” she said.

Yikes. Now this was getting serious. I asked her how she knew and she said she just could tell. In fact, last winter he wrote it in the condensation on the school bus window. He then turned to her and said, “That’s for you.” Her response was two-fold. First, she told him she already knew that. Second, she told him to erase it fast or she was going to tell the busdriver on him.

That’s my girl.

But I have to feel for the kid. He is a fellow 6-year-old with big brown eyes and a shock of black hair that usually looks like he rolled straight out of bed. Since kindergarten, I have seen the way he looks at my daughter and how he jockeys for position to sit next to her at assemblies. He is smitten and can’t do anything about it. And Lizzie has all the power. So I feel it’s my job to make sure she uses it for good, and not for evil. I tell her to be understanding, and treat him kindly but not to encourage him too much.

“BUT I DON’T LOVE HIM!” she shouts. “I LOVE SOMEONE ELSE!”

Seriously? In first grade? Somehow, I thought these conversations would come later.

I tell Lizzie to get used to this situation, because back in my own school days, it seemed I always loved a boy who loved someone else. To make matters worse, there was always a boy who loved me, but I wanted nothing to do with him. She listens with interest.

“But then you met Daddy, and you both liked each other’s face, and you fell in love,” she said. I laughed and told her it has nothing to do with her dad’s face. OK, maybe just a little bit. But I digress.

It was a long road paved with heartbreak and broken dreams, I tell her. I’m glad my husband isn’t here to eavesdrop on our girl talk because he surely would be rolling his eyes, cracking jokes and making idle threats against her poor classmate.

My daughter is in love with the idea of love. (Thank you, Disney princesses.) She leans in and nearly falls off her chair when Ariel and Prince Eric are about to kiss in "The Little Mermaid" movie, or when Prince Charming spies Cinderella at the ball. She has a prince or two of her own, sweet little boys she has befriended over the years, who hold a piece of her heart. But she doesn’t see them every day, and they certainly don’t try to hold her hand.

“Can I tell you something?” I ask her. (A-ha, see? She DID get it from me!)

“Always,” she said.

“When I was a little girl, there was a boy who loved me,” I start. Her eyes are wide. She nods eagerly.

I tell her about Timmy, not my husband Timmy, but a much earlier, freckle-faced model. One day he reached over on the playground and took my hand. We were in fifth grade, I think. It was a sunny day and we were sitting on the grass during recess. It was springtime and there were flowers all around. I wasn’t sure what to think about this. He certainly seemed happy. But I felt ill.

That’s when it hit me. My father’s voice boomed in my head, saying, “You never do anything with a boy that you wouldn’t do right here in front of your mother and me,” he had said, pointing at the spot directly in front of him. Oh, my.

I took one look at Timmy and then at our clasped hands, and pulled mine from his and ran away. I dashed inside the school and into the girls bathroom where I hid until the coast was clear. And I barely spoke to the boy ever again.

Elizabeth was on the edge of her seat. I told her to be nice to her little Timmy (not his real name), but to let him know he needs to keep his hands to himself.

“I tell him, but then he says, ‘Lizzie…’ in a whiny, baby voice, and that’s how I know it’s gonna be hand-holding time,” she said. “It’s so annoying.”

She is irritated, and I understand her frustration.

Heck, one day I showed up at school and saw the two of them in the hallway. He had his arm slung around her shoulder like they were in high school. All he needed was a leather jacket and a cigarette. I half-wished my husband had been there, just so I could see his reaction.

“What are you doing, kids?” I asked cheerfully, clearly ambushing them. He quickly removed his arm and looked guilty. Lizzie shrugged and rolled her eyes as if to say, “See what I have to put up with?”

It seems like only yesterday that I was the one getting off the bus, storming to my room and throwing myself on my bed. Inevitably, my mother’s footsteps would approach and she would ask if this was about you-know-who. It usually was. She would listen to me whine and complain, and try to give me advice and sympathy, but the bottom line is, we all navigate these waters on our own. It isn’t easy, but it’s a part of life.

A young suitor showed up at my house with flowers one Valentine’s Day, and I refused to answer the door. My mother made me accept them and thank him. I was mortified.

“Why can’t the boy you love just love you, and the others just LEAVE YOU ALONE!” I remember growling, slamming the flowers down. Mom promised it all would work itself out over time, and it did, thank goodness.

My daughter laughs at these stories, realizing at least she is not alone.

“It isn’t easy being a girl,” Lizzie said matter-of-factly.

“No, it isn’t,” I said.

And the beat goes on.

Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.