Monday, April 22, 2024

What’s up, Docs?


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Dr April Shepherd viewed television in the comfort of her own home for the first time at age 14.  Until then, television had been taboo in the home of Dr Trevor Shepherd and his wife Dr Agatha Scholar-Shepherd, as they raised four children.A woman who freely admitted: “I never ever saw myself having children”, stepped into the role of motherhood for the first time at age 31, and with her husband, formed a two-man team that set about laying their own ground rules for rearing a family.There was no alcohol consumed in their house; the gynaecologist put her work on hold to care for her children at home through the nursery school stage; together the couple established a firm and deliberate hand over their household, with a regimen of stated values, with family time spent either sharing stories at home or on adventurous outings, providing the opportunity to teach valuable life lessons. Above all, the whole family, devoted Christians, built a life steeped in Christianity and all the positives that added to development. Trevor and Agatha participated in all aspects of church life at the Carrington Wesleyan Holiness Church and the children followed their lead.Now, when April looks back, she is appreciative of the strict upbringing, the inculcation of strong values imparted by her parents, and the exposure to a Christian upbringing.By April’s own admission, her father was a no-nonsense person. A recent medical graduate who still lives at her parents’ spacious home, the young doctor said without apology: “Now I have more autonomy. I can do what I want as long as it does not clash with the values of my father’s house”.To her parents’ credit she also said: “It would be nice to be married and have a family in the future. My parents were married for 30 years, and happily so. I want the same thing for myself”.This couple’s example has inspired all their children and Trevor himself makes no apologies for his firm hand. He  said he knew what his children would have been exposed to, and while they may have been sheltered at home, he did not shield them from the cruel realities of life. His wife relates how he would often weave stories around life’s foibles to acquaint them with the real world out there. The Shepherd children – April, Anton, Trudy-anne, and Nicole – understand how one word or one idea can become the kernel of a story with moral currency. Their father demonstrated this quite often while they were growing up.Trevor made no compromises where such compromises would undermine the foundation that he was seeking to build, and he bolstered his lessons with prayer, making daily morning devotions the day’s starter for the entire family – getting everyone off to school and work.Agatha proudly stated: “They have kept the values and I am grateful for that. You have got to maintain your values, those Biblical values which never change, and you have to lead by example.“You have to guide them in the right path without becoming enemies and you have to find a way to turn them right without antagonising them”.Trevor looked back on the “rough” teenage years of his fatherhood, and “quite a few interesting fights and squabbles, perhaps more than than I would like”.  And he recounted a father’s pain as he confessed shedding many a tear as he dispensed tough medicine, often wrestling with his course of action and his children’s resentment.However, though he acknowledged his children had “what I would consider a slightly hard upbringing”, he maintained: “It was deliberate. It was not by accident. It was thought out and I think it was pretty harsh”.He employed techniques used by his own mother, at times not sparing the rod, because he was aware his children would face a “hard world out there”, and he remembered growing up in a working class home where his mother spared nothing by way of tough love.“I think with the realities that children face today, they have to understand that life works if you do the right thing, it works if you do the wrong thing. So I have no apologies for the strict upbringing that they had.“About the television, it gave us space to sit down, talk and read in the evenings . . . and that is why they all grew up with a very powerful love of reading and the ability to read properly”.With those difficult years behind him, the successful surgeon said: “I would not want to go through that again. You were torn between giving them what you thought they needed to  to be strong,  but seeing the pain that that produced in them . . . but that pain was necessary”. “There were times when I wished it could be easier, but I could not see an easier way. They were going out into a world that was filled with nonsense and stupidity and they had to grow tough to compete in it”.


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