SLICE: When TV shows hit home

THE SABC 1 television show called Khumbul’ekhaya is watched regularly in my home, and it always generates a lot of discussion.

“If I were in their shoes, I don’t think I would forgive my parent(s) for being absent all these years,” or “I don’t think I would welcome the parent that had abandoned me,” are my usual responses.

Loosely translated, the title of the show means “Go back home”. I have always understood the point of the show to be to give people with limited resources an opportunity to reunite with their estranged family members, and I commend that.

According to the show’s website, “Themes of family forgiveness, communication and the courage to act are all explored from an emotional perspective – what do all of these values mean to our society and the characters that we see in the show?”

Another show my family watches is Utatakho (Your father) on Mzansi Magic, which assists adults with paternity tests to determine who their fathers are, particularly in cases where the mothers refuse to tell them.

I am emotionally invested in the television shows I watch, but I am also critical of the content I consume, especially if it addresses larger social issues.

I find it upsetting to see mothers and fathers who abandon their children for years. More so, absent parents who do very little to try and reunite with their children, giving petty excuses such as financial constraints, which is often the case in Khumbul’ekhaya.

The social learning theory would suggest that “Increased interaction with fathers provides children with an additional opportunity to learn social skills, as well as an additional source of emotional and instrumental support” (Leidy, Schofield & Parke, 2013).

In support of this theory, Utatakho and Moja Love’s No Excuse, Pay Papgeld (child maintenance) serve the purpose of holding parents (specifically fathers) accountable, and to emphasise the importance of the involvement of parents in child development.

Watching these shows, I have always sympathised with children who grew up without a solid family structure, because I valued my parents and two sisters so much that I could not begin to imagine a world outside of that family unit.

Imagine my shock when our parents revealed that my father had a daughter outside of their marriage, and they had kept her existence secret for 18 years. My biggest disappointment was that a father who had been so present in all aspects of my life had been supportive to my sister only financially.

My frustrations with the situation were that my own family had been guilty of separating a child from her family, and the possible damages thereof. According to psychoanalytical theorist Sigmund Freud, “Loss or absence of the father was thought to have negative consequences for the child as early as the prenatal period and is associated with later behavioural problems.”

Still our parents decisively kept our sister away from an opportunity of building a relationship with her siblings from an early age and of experiencing growing up with both parents.

As a result of this, my view of these family shows has shifted. From being judgmental and condemning the people who are featured, now that the issues covered have become personal I have become more sensitive to the fact that not everyone grows up with both parents, or with siblings from whom they are inseparable.

It is hard not to criticise parents who separate themselves from their children, whatever the reason, and fail to support them emotionally or otherwise. Now that I have come to realise how uncomfortable the truth can be, but how important it is to face, I have ceased to watch the shows.

FEATURED IMAGE: Jabulile Mbatha, student journalist of Wits Vuvuzela