I first want to state I've never had children. I certainly do not protest to be an authority when it comes to children or that I know all of what goes into parenting. However, with that said, I feel I must speak out on an issue that constantly finds it way through my Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and most gossip blogs.
It's no secret that Will and Jada Smith are what I consider the First Family of Entertainment. I grew up watching Will Smith turn into this mega movie star, while also enjoying watching Jada turn into the blossoming woman she's become on the silver screen, as well as on television. I truly love and respect their artistry and craft and it's nice to have been a part of their success, since I am a huge fan of both and have supported most of their venues.
Now this First Family has two children who are growing up and making their own way in the world and a name for themselves. There would be no denying that Jaden and Willow Smith are definitely Will Smith's kids because they look just like him with a hint of Jada thrown in the mix. I think their children are just as talented as their parents, and I enjoy watching their progress.
What I find disturbing is all the backlash the Smiths' tend to receive from the public. Obviously, when you're in the public eye, your life is one big open book, or so the public would seem to believe, and everything you do comes under scrutiny, and one has to be careful so that his reputation doesn't become too tarnished by his own acts. Once again, having said that, there are many people who criticize the way Will and Jada handle the raising of their children.
And therein lies one of my many problems. First of all, Jaden and Willow are not your children. Perhaps you feel you have a better way of preparing your children for the world in what hopes and aspirations you have for yours, but that's just it, that's your way of thinking and it certainly doesn't have any bearing on how someone else raises their children. Many feel that the Smiths let their kids work too much, but what I want to ask those naysayers is, did anyone ask the children what their thoughts were on that? How do you know they don't like or enjoy what it is they're doing?
I think people are so infatuated with the Smiths raising of their children because of what appeared to go horribly wrong with another famous family, The Jacksons. Maybe people feel had they made a large enough human cry, perhaps the many tragedies that were bestowed upon the Jackson children would not have happened? Even if the public had been made aware of the many problems the Jackson children suffered, it wouldn't have made much difference in the outcome because just like the Jackson family, everyone has their own way of dealing with raising his own children.
From what I can see, it appears as though Will and Jada have a handle on how their children work within the industry. The interviews I've seen them give, to the way their children handle their much publicized life, they seem as though they are managing quite well. And I applaud them for that. You might feel as though I'm a bit biased because I'm a huge fan of all of them, but the fact of the matter is, that couldn't be further from the truth. The truth of the matter is, I sort of understand Will and Jada's strange way of raising their children.
I call it strange, but actually it's just different from what most parents consider raising of a child. I identify with them because I, too, grew up very differently than most of the kids around me. My mother was often criticized for the way she raised my brother and I. She was told many times that the way she was bringing us up was no way to guide a child. Mom and I often laugh about that now and the reason we can laugh is because the very ones who criticized her child rearing, those same parents are crying the blues due to the fact their children didn't quite turn out as they had hoped. My mom was strict in letting us know who the boss was, but she also let us be individuals and make decisions for our own lives. She didn't force us to do anything that we really and truly didn't want to do. She gave us a loving and guiding hand, but never that driving force that so many parents inflict on their children.
She definitely taught us right from wrong, but she encouraged our opinions in family decisions and always listened with a careful ear to our suggestions, and I might add, she sometimes went along with our suggestions, if it fit in with the plans of our future.
She gave us freedom, which many parents don't do, and with that freedom came huge responsibility. If, for one minute, she thought we weren't handling our freedom correctly, or taking advantage of the long 'leash' freedom she gave us, she had no problem in taking it away, but that never happened, and you know why, because there was trust and we never broke that trust with her. My brother and I never had to sneak around like many kids do because we knew what our boundaries were and handled them accordingly. When we did do something we knew we weren't supposed too, we always told her about it. No matter how big or small the thing was, we always told on ourselves, which is why she gave us the freedom to be who we were. My mother established trust with us from day one, and never faltered from that. I still have that relationship with my mother today. Not one thing has changed other than the fact we are older now. Communication was always the key to our relationship. As I told you before, there was never a subject taboo in our household--ever! She talked openly and freely to us about sex, drugs, school, you name it, we talked about it, and mom and I still talk about those things today.
So I get Will and Jada. I understand the freedom they give to their children, and I also get why they let their children do what they do, and I truly believe they are there for their children every step of the way. Jada gets criticized highly for allowing Willow to change her hair styles and color. Although that was a huge no-no in my growing up, she wants her daughter to have a sense of pride about her body and loving herself as a whole, and although that may appear a bit unorthodox to you, it works well for Jada and Willow. They have a trust and communication bond, and when you have that with your parents, it makes for a different type of child. Which could also explain why Jaden and Willow don't act like most children because they are around more adults than kids, and therefore, you tend to take on the role of the models around you--and again, there's that trust/communication bond.
So this is why I don't criticize the things the Smiths' do with their children because I sincerely identify with their child rearing and I understand it. It may seem wrong to many, but it works for them. And as my mother always says, time will tell. Even if it turns out their children go down the wrong paths, Will and Jada seemingly are raising their children to be individuals and to own up to their decisions. This is what I see, but many of you out there don't seem to see this. For all the criticizing my mother endured, it's mighty funny I turned out alright. I'm a productive citizen in society, an author, an award-winning poet, a loving daughter, wife, stepmom, granddaughter, niece, and good friend to many. So obviously, my mother did something right. But let's not forget--these are NOT your children. Since every child is different, I believe the Smiths treat them accordingly. When you see your children are strong and mature enough to handle certain things, then it is those parents who extend a certain amount of freedom to their kids. This is what the Smiths do and this is exactly what my mother did. I tip my hat off to them!
After having said all of that, I recently learned Willow Smith has a new song out, which I absolutely love, entitled Summer Fling. Boy oh boy has this video sparked much heated discussion and debate. When I first heard the song, I fell in love with it because it sounds so haunting and I love music and lyrics like that, but then when I saw the video I really didn't know what to think or say.
Before I gave my opinion on it, I asked my mom to watch and see what she thought. I didn't want my opinion to influence her in any way. She came to me and said the video was entirely too adult for a 12-year old. She found the video to be a little creepy and it bothered her that Willow appears to be doing too many adult things in the video. She didn't like the video, but she was ok with the song. Was I surprised by my mother's reaction? No, because I know her too well. But, she may have been a bit surprised by my response.
Should a 12-year old be sitting out at night time on the beach with teenagers laughing and talking it up? No! Should a 12-year old know anything about a summer fling and making suggestive talk about a boy who appears to be much older than her? No! Is the video too adult for 12-year olds? Yes! Even though I don't agree with the video content, one thing I constantly thought about was who the person was singing this song--Willow Smith. She's a 12-year old, but she's also an entertainer. After all she's the product of Will and Jada Smith and doing things for 'shock' value is something Willow has grown up seeing. Lots of people asked where were her parents when this video was made, and I gather they were right there on set when it was filmed. Jaden has a small cameo in the video too. The Smiths are usually with their children on every project they've done and why would anyone think they weren't this time? Willow is a child, but she's much more advanced in her lifestyle than most 12-year olds because of what she's been exposed to. Again, she's an entertainer.
And many of the responses I've read regarding the video were pretty vulgar. For as many parents and grandparents who've responded to the video, I wonder how many of your children and grandchildren, to coin a phrase from the song--"do it anyway!" Many of you are huge hypocrites. It's easy to blame Will and Jada for the way they raise their children, but how many of you same people let your kids get away with everything. You have little kids in daycare with cell phones. Many of your children are on social media sites and shouldn't be. All these horrible reality shows on TV, many of your children and grandchildren watch them, and you do nothing about that! Oh, it's easy to say this video is inappropriate, but I know kids the same age as Willow having sex, getting pregnant, watching Love and Hip Hop, Basketball Wives, doing what most adults do, but you say nothing about that--but it's easy to fault Will and Jada for their child rearing?! I'll say this, at least Willow has an excuse for what she's doing, but what is your child's(ren) excuse? So far, we haven't heard anything negative about Jaden and Willow, except for the projects they may be working on that some find a bit too much. But what I want you to do is apply those same critiques to your own children and grandchildren, and then talk to me about Willow's video being too adult. Her parents appear to be very responsible, but can you say the same?
Anytime you let your kids watch South Park or the Simpsons and have little kids talking smart to an adult on a cell phone, and you want to say this video was too adult? Hell, many of your kids know all the gangster rap songs and videos--women's booties gyrating on the screen twerking and men grabbing themselves calling women out of their names, and tell me why you let your young ones watch that mess? When you go to a kid's birthday party these days, look at the nasty dances your children are doing, emulating what they see in the videos. Little girls wanting to grow up and be a video girl--really? And you all are the same people talking about Willow's video!! Get the f*ck outta here! Most of the kids I see today behave way too grown, for that matter, so before you're so quick to jump on that this-is-a-horrible-video band wagon, you better check your damn self and get your kids! Jaden and Willow have plenty of guidance, do your children?
Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet
People who live in Glass Houses. . .