Jada Pinkett Smith was Tom Cruise's target in Collateral, and a freedom fighter in The Matrix sequels, and, in this month's Madagascar, she plays Gloria the Hippo. But at home, she's Mommy to Willow, 4, Jaden, 6, and stepson Trey, 12.
- She loved being pregnant. "I didn't experience complications and never felt that sick, but the anticipation right before the due date almost killed me both times. You just want to meet the babies by that point."
- Perfect timing. "Willow and Jaden are a little more than two years apart, which gave us time to recuperate but wasn't so far apart that we had to relearn everything. Now they're really close."
- Blending in. "We talked to Trey when we decided to have more kids and he was excited. He loves playing the big-brother role. I thought we might have some jealousy issues, but we didn't. If you promote family love, a positive vibe creates itself."
- Child-rearing philosophy. "I've never been an overly anxious mom and I don't baby them. I actually like the age the youngest are now -- they can talk and are experiencing things for the first time and really becoming themselves."
- The terrible twos myth. "That torturous period can last a lot longer than a year! I would say it's more like the terrible twos, threes, and fours. They should call it terrible toddlers. But eventually kids mellow out, their personalities develop and change, and with time, things get much easier."
- Bad boy and girl. "Willow and Trey are constantly into something so we had to come up with disciplinary tactics. I'm not one for physical reprimands, but I believe in time-outs. Willow gets things taken away from her a lot, like she won't get to watch any videos for a week. And I feel like, with girls, once you show a sense of disappointment, they want to straighten up fast. Also, being sent to their room by themselves gets to them. My kids hate isolation."
- That's entertainment. "We watch a lot of movies on weekends. There's some good stuff on TV that they can watch but TV is harder to control. With the constant advertisements, it becomes, 'Mommy can I have that?' Or, even the more troubling, 'Mommy, is Michael Jackson going to jail?' And how do you explain that one?"
- Three's company. "We're done. Not that I didn't like being pregnant or having kids, but we have so much going on it wouldn't be fair to the existing kids to spread ourselves any thinner."
- Working mom. "The idea that a mom is only a mom and has to give up her dreams is [crap]. I choose to share my dreams with my children and they support me and I think it helps them create their own goals."
- Habit formation. "I believe you establish the patterns you will live by as a grown-up when you are a kid. So we make rules that lead to good habits, such as limiting sugar intake during the week. You can have as much water as you want, but juice is a privilege earned after you eat dinner and finish your homework. Treats are saved for weekends and that makes them special. I encourage the kids to ride a bike before playing a video game or read a book before watching television. And our house is not toy heaven. We may be blessed financially but that does not mean the kids should be spoiled. These are not new rules -- these are all things my parents did with me."
Carrie Bell is a writer in Los Angeles.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, June 2005.