Dads with Daughters Podcast
Learning from creative dads with Antonio García
In August 2021, I got to switch roles — from podcast host to podcast guest — when I sat down with Dr. Christopher Lewis for the Dads with Daughters podcast. Chatting with Lewis, a veteran parenting blogger and co-founder of the nonprofit Fathering Together, I share my experience raising a daughter and offer perspective as a feminist father in training.
Chris Lewis: Welcome to the Dads with Daughters Podcast, where we bring you guests to help you be active participants in your daughter’s lives, raising them to be strong, independent women. This week I am really excited to bring you Antonio García. Antonio also has a podcast about fatherhood, and we’re going to be talking about that. But as always, we start these shows with talking about being a dad—and he’s a father of two: a daughter (3) and a son (6). Antonio, thanks so much for being here today.
Antonio García: My pleasure, Chris, I’m excited.
Chris: I’m excited to have you here as well. I want to have you go back in time to that first moment: when you found out that you were going to be a father to a daughter. Talk to me about that and what that meant to you, especially after having a son first.
Antonio: Wow. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about this. I think there was some satisfaction in that we were now going to have one of each gender and that felt like it completed our family unit in this really nice way. I think I was excited because it was not known to me. Javier is familiar. I’m a male, he’s a male, its relatable. And so I was excited by everything that a daughter would mean for my own learning. I think I was probably a little fearful too because of the unknowns, but I felt really good overall. I felt excited about it, positive, and looking forward to the challenge. Grateful that we were now balanced as four.
Chris: I’ve heard that from other dads before: that sometimes there’s some fear in raising daughters. As you look at your daughter, she’s only three right now, but in raising a daughter today, what would you say is your biggest fear?
Antonio: I think it’s largely a fear of misogyny and how that permeates culture and the U.S. where we live. And the limited window I feel I have to equip her with skills and perspectives and confidence and strength and bravery—things that are, I think, really important to survive and navigate something like that. So it felt really big, like there’s these societal forces that are uncontrollable, that are threatening, that are dangerous. And they exist too for Javier, my son, but in different ways. And so I felt acutely aware of all of these things I was maybe passive about before: the way women are represented in media, the way we talk about young women and girls. So all of that came rushing in and fueled—rationally or not—a fear about not screwing it up.
Chris: Yeah, not screwing it up is definitely something I know I felt along the way. You talked about the learning you had to go through, especially after having a son first and now being a father to a daughter. What were some of the biggest learning moments you felt you needed to learn in the first three years of Amaya’s life?
Antonio: I don’t know if it was a learning or kind of awakening, but I came up listening to a lot of hip hop. That’s the music I listened to that shaped and influenced me as a young person. It’s music that I still listen to. It’s music that I play as a DJ—hip hop made me in a lot of ways. And I think it’s not a surprise to people that hip hop is rampant with misogyny in ways that I don’t see in other genres of music. And it’s something I was conscious of, but maybe not sensitive to, if I can make that distinction. I was aware that the lyrics in that music objectifies women and trivializes sexual relationships.
I was aware of that, but when Amaya was born, I couldn’t not hear it in the music I was listening to. I was listening to it with new ears and it really grossed me out. Not that any of it was ever “okay” or cool to me, but I was able to just ignore it or see it as machismo and bravado and sort of classify it away. And now it was right in my face. And I was hearing this stuff almost for the first time and thinking, “Wow, I can’t play this. I can’t play this around my kids (obviously) but I can’t really play this for myself anymore and feel about it the same way and enjoy it the same way.”
And I see that in movies, too: the way sex is portrayed or female characters are portrayed—I was conscious of it, but now I was highly sensitive to it, and asking myself, “How much of this has changed the way you think about women or the way you want to raise your daughter? Are those two things incongruent?” And how do I reconcile and unlearn those things. I’m not done, but I think Amaya’s birth was the beginning of that. And I hope it will keep being a driver for me to be a better man and be more discerning about the content I consume and the things I expose myself to.
Chris: Talk to me a little bit about that. Because I think some fathers who might be listening might say to themselves, “This isn’t something that impacts me.” Now I would challenge and say that anyone who has a daughter today has to understand there is misogyny out there. And like you said, in music, in the ads we see, in the television we watch—and the first step to being a engaged father is understanding that you have to be one of the people who are going to be a voice, an advocate, someone who can stand up for the daughters out there. I feel strongly about that, but not every father is going to feel strongly about it. What would you say to them and how would you encourage them to take the journey you’re taking?
Antonio: Two things come to mind right away. One is the responsibility I have for my son. I think it’s really critical I channel some of the things I’m feeling—in age appropriate ways—to him, because I think it’s even more of a responsibility for how boys are raised and men are raised and how they conduct themselves in the world and relate to women. That’s more important. That’s the actual work. If you don’t believe you can improve society or change society, I think it starts in really small ways with the people we do have influence over, which are the young men in our lives, whether they’re our own children or not. So I’m thinking very differently about these kinds of topics and how to talk about them with my son, so he grows up with respect and appreciation for women.
And for someone who might say the half-naked girl in the commercial has nothing to do with their daughter or themselves, I might reframe it this way: ads, media, film, music are not made in a vacuum. Those are expressions of current times and how some people really do feel. And while that content may look and sound different from day-to-day life or the news, it’s art imitating life. You have to acknowledge those things have impact. There’s a guy out there watching it who will cross paths with your daughter in school, in friend groups, somewhere in life. And I hope that person has been able to separate that content from their reality and that when they meet your daughter, they’re in the right head space and haven’t allowed it to filter in and affect how they interact with her. So maybe you can handle it, but think of all the people who are watching the same stuff and can’t make that distinction and can’t handle it, and who will then encounter young girls and women in their lives… how are they coming to those interactions?
Chris: These are such important topics to talk to other men about, but also to talk to our kids about now. Your daughter might be too young at this point to start having these conversations, but as you’ve started this learning process, are there specific topics you want to tackle first?
Antonio: Even at 3-years-old, I don’t think it’s too young. Her eyes are wide open and she’s seeing things and she’s modeling her behavior. She’s looking to everybody in her family, me and my wife, and her brother for how to be in the world. A really easy example I can set, is how I interact with Maris, my wife, in front of Amaya. It’s formative to see the two adults in her life interacting: the way I talk with Maris, the way I argue with Maris, comfort Maris—all those interactions are little data points in her constant collection, as she shapes her worldview. I can definitely think more deeply about how I choose to show up in my own family unit and how I treat the woman who’s most important to her in her life right now.
I can’t shield her from content, media and perspectives forever. They’re flooding in and eventually the dam is going to break and she’s gonna get it all. And so rather than make a defensive play, it’s an offensive play to equip her with skills and perspectives and ways of thinking about herself so that when it eventually happens, she’s prepared and ready and resolute and steadfast in her knowledge of self and appreciation for who she is, and a better filtration system than she would’ve had otherwise. To be able to look at content and appreciate it for what it is and say, “I’m going to pick and choose what parts of this I want to emulate and what parts of this I don’t want to be a part of.” I believe that’ll impact who she becomes friends with and how she spends time and who she’s eventually is attracted to. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to talk about these really early: at 3-years-old you can teach about consent. There’s a lot of big, hard topics, but if you find the right resources, you can bring them down to a level your kid is able to process and internalize.
Chris: Antonio, I always finish our interviews with what I like to call our “Fatherhood 5,” where I ask you five final questions to delve, even deeper into you as a dad. Are you ready?
Antonio: Let’s do it!
Chris: In one word. What is fatherhood?
Chris: When was a time you felt like you succeeded at being a father to a daughter?
Antonio: Our nanny started a little mantra with my daughter every morning as they brushed teeth and were face-to-face with themselves in the mirror. It was this really simple affirmation like: “I am brave. I am strong. I am smart. I am silly.” I overheard it and thought it was so beautiful and so amazing. I just stole it, built on it and now it’s to the point where, without prompting, she works through these affirmations. And I’m so proud that she’s internalizing this at three. I think if she holds onto this way of thinking about yourself, the sky’s the limit. She will be an unstoppable force. I can’t take credit for the mantra, but in seeing her say these things I’m very proud.
Chris: Now, if I was to talk to your kids today and ask them this question, how would they describe you as a dad?
Antonio: On my bad days, they’d probably say I have a quick temper. I can really lay into my son about things I think are important from a self-discipline standpoint, like cleaning up after yourself and those sorts of things. On those days, I can go from 0 to 100 real quick. But in most instances, I think they would say that I don’t dumb things down for them. I tell them the truth in ways I think they can process. I have just a lot of respect for my kids, even though they’re so young, I treat them like people not like kids. So they’d say, “Papi tells the truth and Papi keeps it real.”
I also think they tell you, I love on them and I’m rough and tumble with them—tickling and wrestling. That’s equal parts for my daughter and my son. In fact, my daughter’s more athletic and wants to rough house more than my son does. You know, he’s the empathetic artist and she’s the mixed martial artist. So I think they’d say that I love on ’em hard.
And lastly, I think they’d tell you I keep them safe and that I’ve made an environment in our house where they are cared for and loved and safe. I think it’s really important kids have some space that feels safe and where they can just be themselves. And I try to make a house where that’s possible. I’m not awesome at it, but it’s something that I keep in mind all the time.
Chris: That’s what it’s all about: we’re not going to be perfect, but we can just keep trying and keep getting better day-by-day and learn from the things we made mistakes on, but also learn from our kids, too. Now who inspires you to be a better dad?
Antonio: My own dad, for sure. The other day after some frustrating instance, I was reflecting with Maris and I said, “I can count one time in my whole life at 42-years-old that I can remember my dad being legit mad at me.” He just doesn’t get bent out of shape. And it’s not that he doesn’t care. He cares deeply. But I don’t know that I’ve met a more caring and loving person. He’s the dude that pulls over on the side of the road to help somebody with a flat in the rain just because he thinks that’s important or because he wants to help. I don’t know anybody that loves unconditionally, my dad is so patient. I’m really grateful for him.
Chris: You’ve shared a lot today. Things you’ve learned along the way, things you’re still learning—what advice would you give to other dads as we wrap up?
Antonio: Admit your mistakes to your kids as close to the infraction as you can. I think it’s important they see us as human beings capable of making mistakes and can see our imperfections and that all people—including grown-ups—have flaws and may let you down. They know when you’ve screwed up, they’re not stupid. So get out ahead of that and admit when you’ve lost your cool or let them down. Talk about that with your kids and apologize for it. Be honest about your mistakes as a human being. I think it’ll help them treat themselves with grace when they screw up. And I think it’ll normalize learning and trying and not getting things right. Which is what we want our kids to live into, where they can take risks and explore things and not be afraid of getting it wrong. And if we can make it a habit by admitting all the instances where we screw up—that it’s a normal thing people do—hopefully they won’t see themselves as a failure because they had this impression their father was perfect. Own up to your mistakes—your kids always forgive you. I just think it’s a healthy mindset to have.
Chris: It is a healthy mindset to have. I want to thank you for being here today. Thanks for all you’re doing to be able to help fathers be better and I wish you all the best.
Antonio: Chris, thanks for having me on the show. It was awesome. I really appreciate the time and the interest and all those great questions. I’m going to be thinking about this all weekend long. Thanks for that!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To listen to the original episode in its entirety, check out here.