Review: Investigation Discovery's 'The Family I Had'

What do you do when your eldest child, a 13 year old boy, the being that is responsible for saving your own life is responsible for taking your four year old daughter's life? Do you forget about them, all the while letting them rot away in a prison cell for the rest of their life or do you continue to fight for them, giving them that unconditional love that only a parent knows for their child? What do you do when that fight for one of your kids makes you feel as though you are neglecting or don't love the other as much? What do you do when at the end of the day you realize that even though one isn't physically here on Earth, that you have essentially lost you're only two kids? Do you continue and push on in the fight for their lives as well as your own do you just give up? Finally, what do you do when you have somewhat moved on, bringing another child into this life and it comes time to develop a relationship with your child who is in prison and the new child that you have? Do you keep as far apart as you can or do you forgive? These heavy and ethical questions as well as many others are what is at the center of the Investigation Discovery documentary, The Family I Had.

The Family I Had, chronicles the story of, Charity, a single mother whose world was forever changed on February 4, 2007 when her 13 year old son, Paris, murdered her 4 year old daughter, Ella. This documentary meets up with her family, including Paris and her mother, Kyla, 10 years later and asks them to recount this unfortunate situation as well as the things that may have played a factor in this tragedy.

Besides the incredibly sad, but still very intriguing story, one of the things that I loved about this documentary were the questions (besides the ethical ones) that it raised. What is the role of genetics and a pre-disposition to mental illness; is it all nature or does the factor of nurture come into play? What is the role of the justice system? Should they solely be focused on removing the criminals from the larger society and keeping them as isolated as possible or should they also be focused on the rehabilitation of these very people because they are still human at the end of the day with the possibility for growth? Why does it always take for some grave incident for people to actually start paying attention and try to fix some of the problems that have been festering all of their lives? Though, some of these questions require an educational background in the behavioral sciences, I still do think that they are questions that should be heavily thought about because even though the likelihood of this situation happening to you is probably pretty slim; the reasons, implications, and the outcomes are very real and way too common for a lot of people.

At the center of this story is very a chaotic family dynamic. Besides the main story, we learn that Paris, before murdering his sister, had previously shown psychopathic tendencies that were never given the treatment that they deserved, and also that his father suffered from a mental illness. We learn that Kyla has been married 7/8 times, was on trial for the death of her husband (Charity's father) which she was later equated for, and has never really had the best relationship with Charity. We also learn that Charity, herself, wasn't all that much of a saint either; she dealt with her own addiction problems as well as horrible choices in the men that she chose to spend her life with.

You can see how this kind of family dynamic would have and could have given birth to someone like Paris, it's this never ending cycle of hurt, pain, disappointment, and anger that could only be stopped if someone took it upon themselves to say "It ends here." Thankfully, in this story, as it seems, Charity was the person to do that, and I think that it all stemmed from the ability to forgive. Charity had to forgive not only her son and herself, but also her mother if it ever meant that they as a family could finally try to move on, bringing in that sense of peace that was never really there to begin with.

If you have the opportunity to watch this documentary, please do. The story itself, sounds like it was ripped from an episode of Law and Order, if you're into those kinds of show, then you'll definitely enjoy this. However, digging a bit more deeply into the story, at the center, I believe that this movie provides for a wonderful lesson in forgiveness that I think we can all learn something from.

The Family I Had premieres on Investigation Discovery on December 21, 2017 at 9/8 c.

Rating: 3 out of 5