Since Will Smith was six-years-old, he longed to be a father. However, when his first child was born, Trey, the Hollywood star, like most first-time parents, was scared out of his mind. For a special Father's Day episode of Red Table Talk, Will sat down with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith to discuss the realities and rewards of fatherhood.
Will began the convo by first discussing his late father, Willard Carroll Smith, Sr., who he revealed was physically abusive to his mother, Caroline Bright.
"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 shared. "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."
"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 explained to Jada. "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."
Adding, one of his father's greatest gifts, which he called his "superpower," was his ability to teach. "Every single moment was a teaching moment," Will said. "He believed that school wasn't the only place you could get an education."
Will then discussed how his initial experience becoming a father at 24-years-old was terrifying because for the first time he actually felt the pressure and responsibility of parenthood.
"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," he admitted. "I’m totally responsible for this life… I just cried so hard. It makes me teary right now."
Will added that he felt like, "I can’t do it. I’m not the guy. Oh man, I just knew I didn’t know nothing," he continued while wiping away tears. "Oh man, I’m going to need to get myself together. I’m going to have to walk this one off… It's like in that moment, it was like, how much better than me my father was. It's on me now," he said before asking for a tissue. "See I thought the red couch wouldn’t get me like this. The red table always gets you like this."
"It was [always] like, 'my father did this,' 'my father did that,' 'when I'm a parent...' and then it hit me how fragile parenting is," he shared. "And in that moment I could see all the spectacular lessons — what my father had instilled in me — and it was like, there's no way. I'm not that good, but you know how my mind works: I got a good night's sleep and [it was] game on."
Jada then noted that Will's persevering spirit is what his father instilled in him.