Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith have talked frequently about their parenting and marriage philosophy, which emphasizes freedom and creativity. But Pinkett Smith reveals in a new, candid conversation that trusting your kids’ autonomy doesn’t come without heartbreak.
On her show, Red Table Talk (h/t People magazine), which features candid discussions between Pinkett Smith and members of her family, the actress spoke with son Jaden, daughter Willow and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, about the way she and Will have raised the children.
The conversation was kicked off by Banfield-Jones admitting to Pinkett Smith that she felt the kids had “too much choice” growing up, prompting Pinkett Smith to open up about a particularly difficult episode with Jaden—his request, at 15, to leave the Smith home.
“At 15 years old, Jaden, and I remember this day specifically, it’s probably one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life,” she said. “You got to a point where you told me straight up, you were like, ‘Mom, I have to leave here to live my life.’”
“I remember thinking to myself, as devastated as I was, I was like, ‘He’s right,’” Pinkett Smith said. “The time is now. He’s 15. It’s time for him to leave the house.”
Jaden didn’t follow through with the emancipation, opting to stay with his parents. In 2013, Jaden appeared on Ellen: The Ellen Degeneres Show alongside Will Smith and talked about his decision, joking, “I can get anything and everything at his house, so I’m going to be there for 20, 30 years.”
For his part, Smith has called Jaden “100 percent fearless.”
“As a parent it’s scary, it’s really terrifying,” Smith told the BBC in 2016. “But he is completely willing to live and die by his artistic decisions, and he doesn’t concern himself with what people think.”
Pinkett Smith says she understands why her son wanted to separate himself.
“Being in this lifestyle, in this world, is a bubble, and he wanted out. I understood that because I didn’t have the bubble,” Pinkett Smith told her mother. “I knew what having my freedom outside the bubble, what I gained from that. I knew the sooner I let him go, the faster he was going to come back.”