For a special Father’s Day edition of Red Table Talk, Will Smith discussed fatherhood. During the conversation with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, the actor talked in-depth about parenting, the lessons he’s learned, the failures he’s overcome, and how his divorce from his first wife shaped his approach as a father and husband.
“By the time I was ten years old, I remember looking at my father and thinking that I could do it better than him,” Will told Jada during the interview. “And what made you think you could do it better?” Jada asked Will.
“My father had a little bit of a temper. I was a gentle kid, like, I was not a kid that you had to slap or punch or beat. So growing up in a household where physical aggression was approved of, that really chaffed my hide. That hurt my spirit,” Will shared.
“I know that you were able to really value your father’s imperfections once he had passed on,” Jada said. “Well there’s such beautiful qualities that he instilled that are a big part of what made me me, and as the yin to every yang, I watched [my father] beat up my mother,” Will said.
“So the biggest emotional scar that I have in this lifetime, he delivered that also. He showed me a lot of things that I wanted to do, but he also showed me the things I would absolutely, positively never do to my children.”
During the interview, Will also talked about becoming a father for the very first time, and he got emotional.“I think that was my first moment of the real weight of parenting. I brought him [Trey Smith] home, and I remember we put him in the bassinet… and it was like stark terror,” Will explained. “I’m totally responsible for this life… I just cried so hard. It makes me teary right now.”
“You cried from what? What was the feeling?” Jada asked Will. “I can’t do it. I’m not the guy. Oh man, I just knew I didn’t know nothing,” Will said. “[Will wipes away tears] Oh man, I’m going to need to get myself together. I’m going to have to walk this one off… I need a tissue. See I thought the red couch wouldn’t get me like this. The red table always gets you like this.”
“I want to talk about one interesting concept that you’ve brought up quite a bit in regard to Trey and divorce. The idea being that just because a man might not be the best husband, does not mean he’s not a good father,” Jada said to Will.
“Divorce was the worst thing in my adult life. Divorce was the ultimate failure for me,” Will admitted. “I’ve been hurt a lot in my adult life, but I don’t think anything touches the failure of getting divorced from my two-year-old son’s mother… If a man’s not a great husband then he loses his parental rights. And I’m a way better father than I am a husband.”
“Because of my experience of seeing Daddio punch my mother, I knew that my kids would never see me do anything violent towards their mothers, but in the first couple years of Trey’s life, because Sheree and I were divorced, I think my desire to never have my son see me in that way made me more absent as a father,” Will continued.
“Sheree and I really struggled with each other needing the other person to do it their way. She needed me to father the way she wanted Trey fathered, and I’m not that guy. I’m not the parent-teacher meeting, throwing baseballs with the kids [guy], and I beat myself up for that for a while, wanting to be that dad. I am the ‘we are going to build something together for work’ dad.”