The dadcraft Life: Obed Daphnis & Fathering in the Caribbean

  by Chris Horst

The dadcraft Life: How Obed Daphnis taught his daughter three languages, dancing and racing with her while he did so.

You live in the Dominican Republic, were born in Boston, but spent some of your childhood in Haiti. What transcends the different places where you’ve lived?

People want the best for their families. If you’re in Boston, Port-au-Prince, or San Pedro, people want to enjoy life and provide the best for their families. I’ve observed that everywhere I’ve lived.

Tell us about your family.

I’m married to Karen and we have one daughter, Katherine. She turned 3 in November. As a family, sometimes we can be loud. There are always three languages being spoken at the dinner table, at bath time and around the house: Spanish, English and Creole. There’s often some dancing going on. My daughter loves to dance. She’s always dancing around the house. One other characteristic of my family is that we try to serve one another inside our home so it’s natural to do that outside the home as well.

Wait. You speak three languages in your home?

Yes, and Katherine is learning quickly! Her Creole is not great yet. It’s the language that’s spoken the least in our home. English and Spanish are stronger for her because that’s what we speak most often. At bedtime, interestingly, she always asks me to pray in English. I try and be intentional about teaching her words in all three languages. She’s got a knack for it, honestly. She recognizes that different languages exist. Her vocabulary is growing every day.

You travel a lot for your work at HOPE International. How do you manage to father well, even when you’re on the road?

I’ve been traveling a bunch. I believe the best way to give Katherine a healthy environment is by first being a good husband. I have to support Karen first. Our relationship has to be healthy. I do my best to honor Karen when I’m home, which helps stabilize things when I’m not.

We use Facebook messenger and Whatsapp video calls and texting so we can talk and share about our days. I create time to connect with my ladies. My goal is to make sure they know they’re loved, even if we don’t talk long.

We always ask: What’s one thing you’ve learned from your father?

When I was 20, I started a small business. It was going okay, but I was struggling. My dad shared some encouraging words with me, and it just put a ton of confidence into me. It was a turning point. I went out and crushed a project I was working on later that day.

In my fathering, I want to counter negative thoughts Katherine has about herself. I want to encourage her so she can have the confidence she needs. I don’t want to her to be prideful, but I want her to be confident in who she is.

We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?

My intentionality. I regularly suggest we turn the TV off and put cell phones away and spend time together. In the midst of busyness, I value my family by being intentional with each other. Doing that allows us to be more connected and more present. Fathering is about parenting “along the way” and “as we go.” It’s not in the big speeches.

We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?

When you see your kids do little things—like the first time you see your kid pee in the toilet or hear them say their first words—those small celebrations are great. When Katherine rolled over for the first time, when she took those first steps … there’s such joy. It’s made me more celebratory at work when I’ve accomplished things or seen my coworkers accomplish things.

We always ask: What is your favorite activity to do with your kid?

Run and dance, man. That’s it. I pick her up and she sticks her feet out and puts her arms out and we fly around the house. Then we race each other. There’s just something special about running together. She loves to beat me. And, I love it too.

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Obed’s shared wisdom on staying in touch with your family while you travel. If you can’t call, be wise with your texts. Other interviews can be found here. And if teaching your kid a new language (or three) isn’t going to happen, what about making a book?