During my Mother’s Day yesterday, I was taking a much-needed book writing break and tooling around on the internet when I stumbled on Jada Pinkett-Smith’s new Red Table Talk project, a series of intimate online conversations she’s having with her daughter, Willow Smith, and mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, on child-rearing, family, fame and love, and I have to say, I adored what I saw.
Pinkett-Smith, who’s been working hard to fend off criticism of her parenting style, attacks against her precocious pop star daughter, Willow, and vicious rumors about cracks in her marriage to international acting icon Will Smith, says she produced the Red Table Talk series to help foster communication across three generations of her family—passionate, raw chats she’s hoping will help create a stronger relationship between her, her mother and her daughter. The three kick off the chats both by pulling questions they have for one another out of a bowl and bringing “must answer” questions they’ve jotted in their personal journals.
I have to say that the first video lives up to its promise: in it, Jada’s mother poses the question: “How do all my efforts to be a better grandmother than I was a mother make you feel? Any resentment?” The question inspires a passionate response because of its premise: Jada’s mother was a drug addict and, to this day, she feels guilty for raising her daughter in an overly-permissive, rough-and-tumble, poverty-stricken environment while addicted to illegal substances. But more surprising than that revelation is Jada’s response: the actress and singer says she doesn’t see the way her mother raised her as bad, and has chosen to see the power that came from her mother’s parenting—from her mom’s willingness to encourage her edgy style of dress to helping her pursue a career as an entertainer.
“I learned the power of freedom,” Jada insisted. “The freedom’s you gave me, like, do what you want with your hair, dress how you want, you want to dance, you want to sing? I’m going to take you down to the Baltimore School For the Arts. You never once ever told me I couldn’t do something… I would call that good daggone parenting. We can’t be perfect on all levels, but that you were intuitive enough to know who I was, now that’s one of the best things that you can give a child. And not to get in the way of a being of a person… You never got in the way of my being-ness, which for me helped me understand the importance of having that, which is why I’ve been able to give that to Jaden, Willow and Trey.”
What I saw in the first 20-minute video was absolutely inspiring to me as a mom looking for meaningful ways to raise my daughters with fierce courage and keen insight—to take from my own childhood and my experiences with my parents both the good and the bad and use them to elevate my own parenting skills and communication with my kids. I especially love Jada’s explanation for why she encourages, rather than squelches, her daughter’s eclectic spirit—an argument I made in Willow’s defense in my 2010 post, “That New, New: Willow Smith, The Hair Whip, and Coloring Outside the Lines.”
I have to say, I’m definitely looking forward to more of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Red Table Talk series with Willow and her mom, Adrienne Banfield-Jones—not just because I’m interested in digging more into their celebrity life, but because I honestly find it inspiring. My mom is gone from here, so I can’t have these important conversations with her, but I’m grateful that I can talk openly and honestly with my two girls and my dad about such things, and pray that when my girls have babies of their own, they’ll see the power in the way I’ve parented them. Watch the first Red Table Talk series below.
1. Willow Smith, the Hair Whip and Coloring Outside the Lines
2. Willow Smith & The Stripper Pole: Kids Will Be Kids—Even Will And Jada’s
3. Willow Smith’s Shaved Head: Why Does This Child’s Short Haircuts Get Black Folk So Riled Up?
4. Angelina Jolie Put Synthetic Braids In Zahara’s Hair. And We Care Because… Why?
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.