Last week I let the kids watch a movie I shouldn't have. It seemed educational and historical. I did a little online research and decided it would probably be ok. After all it was a made for tv movie from 1974. And likely Daniel wouldn't pay attention anyway. Right?
I'm not entirely sure how The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman ended up on our Netflix queue. My guess is that its nine emmy awards made it stick out one night when I was adding random movies to the list. At any rate, that was the movie we had the night Michael wasn't going to be home and I was desperate for something to keep the kids occupied.
The story, which spans from slavery in the south just after the Civil War to the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, began and sure enough we lost Carrie and Daniel within ten minutes. I considered turning it off, but Brenna seemed interested so I didn't. Eventually I had to put Carrie to bed and that settled Daniel down almost immediately. He began to pay attention. And I began to have concern.
I stopped the movie twice to explain words we don't use and to give a little historical context to the events. They were both proud of Miss Jane for drinking out of the white water fountain at the end of the movie.
When Michael came home I told him what they'd seen and suggested we do a little post movie discussion the next day. So at lunch I asked Daniel to tell Daddy about the movie. In typical boy fashion he immediately described a bus crash (a burning freedom riders bus), which was probably about 6 seconds of the whole movie. So minor in fact, that it took me a while to even remember what he was talking about. Phew! If that's what he remembered, I was relieved. Although it was horrible, I knew he didn't grasp the extent of the situation.
And then the following conversation took place:
"Hey Dad! Did you know that in the old days when someone died they put the body in a box and buried them in the ground?! Isn't that funny?"
Silence. Michael and I exchange looks. Shoulders begin to shake as we tried to hold back laughter.
"They still do that."
"Yep, what did you think happened when someone dies?"
"They get taken to the hospital."
"Well, yes, but once the body is dead, we bury it."
"So when Caramel Pap gets shot we're going to put him in a box and bury him????"
[Caramel Pap is my grandfather. This is where the "uh oh" set in. I realized Daniel was remembering the scenes where a young black activist angered the white folks in town who in turn found a crazy man to shoot him, point blank along a deserted road. His funeral had followed - hence the box and burial.]
Me:"Daniel, Carmel Pap isn't going to get shot!"
"But he might die soon."
"Well, not everybody dies by getting shot! There are lots of ways to die. You could have a disease, or an accident or you could just get old and your body gives out. Most people don't get shot."
Uneasy laughter from the adults as the kids jumped topics and asked for seconds. I guess it's a good thing we set that straight but yikes! Next time I'll do a LOT more research before I throw a random movie into the DVD player. That one ended up being educational all right - just not the way I expected. Lesson learned.