First Grade.

Today I bravely held Maverick’s hand as we moved with a flood of strangers into the elementary school. I looked at the other children and their parents, laden with school supplies, and wondered who else was terrified.

People tell us the East Baton Rouge Parish School System is broken. They say private school is the best option, that things aren’t what they used to be. They say we can’t trust our public schools, that children know too much, too soon; they warn of the dangers of drugs and guns and that my child will be exposed to sex by the time that he’s 8.

But I’m choosing to trust this school.

As we walk through the doors, I note that some parents look just as nervous as I feel. I look away from the big sign that says NO GUNS and I focus on the smiling teachers who are greeting us. They all seem genuinely excited for the school year to begin. 

We walk through a maze to find his classroom. Most of the other boys in his class are bigger than him. He’s young for a first-grader. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe he’s too young. He’s still 5 years old, and most boys his age are entering Kindergarten this year or even next.

Maverick quietly introduces himself to Ms. Johnson. He answers her questions politely and shakes her hand. We find his desk and he sits and begins to color carefully inside the lines. “I love you,” I say. “I am so proud of you.” He begs me not to go. He says that he’s scared. I am, too, but I don’t tell him that.

“I have to leave you,” I remind him. “If I don’t leave, then you can’t learn. And because you want to be a scientist, you have to learn, right?”

And before the tears started, I gave him one last hug and turned away, leaving my little boy alone in a sea of faces, sitting at a desk with his name on it.

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