On Tuesday, Amelia came into my office, giggling. She told me all about a game she and Henry were playing with Henry’s therapist. They were playing some kind of make believe scene with Amelia’s Frozen dolls. Henry was playing with Olaf, and was off doing something on his own with the jolly snowman.

The therapist asked what Olaf was doing, and Henry said he was watching a TV show called, “What the Heck is Going On!?” He described it as some kind of game show where the only question is “What the heck is going on?!” And the answer is always, “I have NO idea.”

Henry came up with this himself.

First of all, I am impressed with his creativity. It is a really goofy and funny concept for a not-quite-five-year-old to come up with, and frankly I think it could be pitched to a network. I am always proud of both kids’ creativity.

And second of all, I often think they are tapped into some universal understanding I can’t comprehend because it turns out the phrase “What the heck is going on?” was about the only thing one could say today when the U.S. Capitol was overrun by insurrectionists. And yes, I say “insurrectionists” becasuse these weren’t protesters or pranksters, these were armed agitators who forcibly entered the Capitol with the intent of stopping a process at the heart of our representative democracy.

I know I’m breaking form here, since I always write about the previous day. But today was clearly one for the books for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that we, along with parents all around the country, had the delightful task of explaining an attempted overthrow of the U.S. democratic process by a mob.

Here’s the thing. I avoid getting political in this blog, and we don’t really get into it that often with the kids, either. We’re fortunate that they are young enough to not have to see what’s going on for the most part. But we do teach them about right and wrong, about respect and decency for people and process, and how our country is supposed to work. We encourage them to have open minds, listen, learn and make informed opinions. 

But today, like everyone, we watched in horror the absolute disgrace in DC. Earlier in the day I had heard a few comments the president had made in his rambling speech to protesters, including the fact that he told them to march down to the Capitol and how they needed to “show strength” and “not let them take our country.”

Erin and I were upset, scared and angry watching it all unfold, and Amelia asked what we were watching. So at this point we had to let her see, and explain to our little girl that this is a day she’ll probably learn about in history someday. We explained that, unlike every president before him, this one refused to accept that he lost the election and was willing to let people physically attack our Congress to try to get his way. She thought it was scary, and we said it was, but also told her that everything was going to be OK, this would be stopped and country would move on as it should.

She went off and played, and we checked in with her later. She is doing just fine, and this is a day where I frankly count my lucky stars that our kids aren’t older. Also, they’ve had to absorb so much disruption and horror in the last year, this is probably just another blip on the radar for them. But like so many times before, I hate that our kids are living through such an awful time. We have had to ask far too much of them already.

And lest we forget, this is far from a blip in the radar. Today is a stain on our country that won’t wash away. We no longer have any standing to lecture other other nations about democratic process. Our system was designed with the idea that people of integrity would hold that office, and now we see how unprepared we were for someone with no scruples. How many times before we have heard that character matters in politics. Never before have we seen just how important it really is.

Tomorrow I’ll go back to goofy kid stories. But today, my heart hurt for the country I love and this is the best way I can process it. Still, I remain optimistic that we can and will do better. Tomorrow, we will begin that journey.

But today…”What the heck is going on?!?”