What did I tell my kids on January 6th?

Spring, Sakura, Cherry Blossoms, Pink, Flower

Warning: political views unavoidable. Please click the back button if you don’t want to hear my opinions.

Ah, 2021. So new, and yet already so shitty. Who knew that 2021 would take a good look at 2020’s shenanigans and say “hold my beer?”

Parents all over the US are slightly shell-shocked over the events of January 6th and asking “what do I tell my kids?” in literally every parenting group I’m a member of. People offered suggestions. Links. Ways to calmly, not-scarily tell our kids about the not-calm-super-scary events.

It’s a little late to be offering my suggestions here. I’ve been in hermit mode dealing with sinus surgery that didn’t heal right, the holidays, and a generally crappy health situation, so I missed the opportunity to impart my wisdom. /s What I can do is tell you what I did.

I left the TV on. All day.

Background noise

You would have to know me in person to know what that means.

Growing up, my grandparents always had the TV running, even during hallowed family events such as Christmas Eve family dinner, or Thanksgiving, where everyone would cram into their little home, and the TV was a short stretch from the table.

In my own family home, TV was THE DEVIL and we did not watch THE DEVIL except for things rated G and old black and white movies. Definitely not Disney. Anything Disney was LUCIFER INCARNATE. (slight exaggeration. Only slight.)

As an adult, I realized that I simply cannot hear with the TV running. I can “hear” you speaking, I know you’re talking to me, but I can’t understand any of it. The strain of sorting out your words from the TV noise takes up all my processing power. (yes, I know this is a symptom of auditory processing disorder. I don’t have a diagnosis.)

So if I left the TV on during the events of January 6th, that means that I was only – literally – only paying attention to it.

We started with boring

We started off with the grand pomp and ceremony of the bicameral Legislature meeting to count the Electoral College votes. Social studies for the day. I had the kids eat their lunch on the sofa (a treat!) while they watched. That meant they might stick it out a little longer. We took a break when Arizona happened.

I turned C-Span back on after our break, just in time to hear the hurried announcement of a recess. It spiraled from there. Once I realized this was a serious thing, I waffled – should I let the kids watch? Curate it afterwards? I decided yes. To both.

History unfolded. The kids watched flash bangs and saw tear gas waft over the crowds. They asked why people were breaking the windows, “isn’t that real glass mom?” They saw Ashli Babbitt’s blood-soaked gaze staring into nothing as she was carried to the ambulance in real time. They. Saw. It. All.

I hovered. I explained this significance, or that image. I pointed out this hasn’t happened before. I helped them make the connection to the building they loved walking around (the grotto! remember kids?) and this shattered, loud, riot of a building whose steps were covered with people.

They saw it all.

Critical thinking replay

The next day, we went over it again. We watched a synopsis, starting with inflammatory words at the White House, then to crowds pushing and pushing until something had to give. I paused the video of yelling, screaming, angry rioters inside the capitol and asked them to tell me what they saw (hint: all male, all white.) I let them see the police casually move aside barriers and walk away, rioters attack reporters and destroy their equipment, and the confederate flag waved in a shocking display of insurrection. We talked through it.

They were more upset that rioters smeared poop and pee all over the floor than that people died. “Didn’t they know there were bathrooms there?!” The harshest aspects didn’t really sink in.

I didn’t soften it. I didn’t lie. I told them I was worried about our friends in the area. I told them people got hurt. I told them … words matter. I told them who put fuel on this fire of hate and set it loose.

This is (not) the (only) way

Every family is different. I can’t say that what worked for my family is the best and only way. I can tell you that kids are smart, and they deserve the truth. As harsh as it was, I’m glad my kids were able to watch what happened in real time. They needed to see it.

I hope that you and your family feel safe!

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