If the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Uncle Phil was the celebrity father figure of the millennials, Will Smith has now become Gen Z's version of the late James Avery. As a result, it was fitting that Jada Pinkett-Smith used the Father's Day episode of Red Table Talk to have a conversation with her husband.
During their conversation, Smith explains that he's always wanted to be a father, but he understood that he could be a better father to his children than his dad was to him.
"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 said to Jada. "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."
Smith went on to explain that he learned to accept his father's imperfections after he passed. He revealed that his father was physically abusive toward his mother. Although that left him traumatized, he learned how not to scar his own family.
"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," he continued. "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."
Despite this, he praised his father for being attentive, describing his father's ability to teach a "superpower."
"Every single moment was a teaching moment," Will said. "He believed that school wasn't the only place you could get an education."
Will claimed that he knew that he wanted to be a father since he was six-years-old. This dream became a reality with the birth of his son, Trey, when he was 24. When discussing his son's birth, Will become overwhelmed with emotion.
"I think that was my first moment of the real weight of parenting. I brought him home, and I remember we put him in the bassinet… and it was like stark terror. I’m totally responsible for this life… I just cried so hard. It makes me teary right now," Will said.
"I can’t do it. I’m not the guy. Oh man, I just knew I didn’t know nothing," he continued while choking back 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."
Still, Will learned to be the best father he could for Trey as well as Jaden and Willow. In this process, Smith had to learn to listen to his children with the loudest message coming from his youngest and only daughter. Will explains how Willow had signed on to do the "Whip My Hair" tour for her breakthrough single. Before the tour was over, she wanted to go home.
"I was like, ‘Well no, you can’t go home, baby. You committed to 30 days. You can’t go home.’ She kept asking, ‘Daddy, it doesn’t matter how I feel?’ And I was like, ‘Yes baby, it does matter how you feel, but you have to finish what you started,'" he explained. "And she was like, “But I’m finished.’"
To finalize her commitment to leaving the tour, Willow shaved her head bald. Will took this act as a clear statement and lesson to adjust his parenting.
"It was so devastating to me when she shaved her head bald," Smith said. "Well because her record is ‘Whip My Hair.’ I’m like, that’s a protest against me."
Learning these lessons has allowed Will to mature into the father he is today. With the help of Jada and his ex-wife, Sheree Zampino, Will was able to tailor his parenting to have a healthy relationship with his children.
Watch the full conversation with Will Smith's appearance on Red Table Talk below.