Dr Philip Gaskin is a doting father of two intent on ensuring that his family practises a healthy lifestyle. And from all accounts, his daughters Zahra, 11, and Isis, 8, are thoroughly enjoying the challenge.
As the three sit together in the living room of their beautiful Erdiston Hill, St. Michael home, the girls’ eyes are glued to their father’s face; they hang on his every word. And it doesn’t take long to realize that they want to be just like him.
In fact, Isis, a student of the nearby St. Winifred’s School, boldly states that on her worksheets she writes her name as Dr. Isis Gaskin!
The admiration is clearly mutual.
“They say that you never realize how much your parents love you until you have kids yourself, and it has definitely been a realization for me. I absolutely adore these two young ladies,” Philip says, gazing adoringly at Zahra and Isis.
But having grown up in a home with mainly males, the oldest of three boys, he readily admits that raising two girls proved to be quite challenging, even with the assistance of his wife Asha.
“It’s been very different for me because I came from an all-boys family where my mother was what Bajans would call ‘no sweetbread’.
“In that household everything was pretty nice and hard, but now I find myself going to work with a Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse lunch bag . . . I definitely had to discover the soft side because obviously having girls is a little bit different from having boys,” he says.
“I have to be a little bit softer. The shouting that I would have been accustomed to doing doesn’t work and they’re able to disarm me with a smile. It’s been a nice challenge.”
Philip, 44, is an anesthesiologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the co-owner of the popular CrossFit IslandFit Fitness Centre in Wildey, St. Michael.
It’s his background in medicine, and seeing firsthand the repercussions of an unhealthy lifestyle that caused him to make adjustments to the way his children live.
He eliminated soft drinks and juices from their diets, cut down on snacks, and got them interested in exercising and drinking mainly water.
The rest is history.
Both Zahra and Isis have now grown accustomed to hitting the gym at home three times a week, running triathlons, and are members of the IslandFit Kids programme.
They wake up sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m. for a workout session before heading off to school.
“It’s lovely spending time with my dad because I know that he pushes me a lot. He knows that no matter how good I am at something, I can do better,” Zahra says. “He says that I do well, but he knows in his heart that I can do a lot better . . . I want to go to the Olympics and he knows that I can do that and he tells me that I have the strength and the ability to go as far as I want.”
Isis, the baby of the family, emphatically replies, “Yes I do!” when asked if she enjoys working out with her family.
And although she admits that dancing is her favourite hobby, she likes being in the gym and “doing the breast stroke pulls on the bands, as it really helps my muscles”.
Just last week, Philip was one of the proudest fathers in the world, after learning that Zahra, who was born in Ireland and is also a student of St Winifred’s, had gained entrance to Harrison College after setting the Common Entrance Examination.
He explains that even while preparing for the exam, Zahra never dropped her extra-curricular activities, as he believes there is a link between exercising and performing well academically.
“I definitely think it [exercising] is a big part of their lives. Even all of the swimmers at Zahra’s school have done well in the 11-Plus. All the studies have shown there is a relation between exercise and academic achievement; those two are intertwined,” Philip insists.
“When I hear parents say that they stopped their child from playing football or from running because they weren’t doing well in their schoolwork, I think they are actually doing things wrong.
“The more you exercise and the more you take part in sports, there is a discipline that comes along with that,” he adds.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Philip, however.
His job sometimes keeps him away from home for long periods, forcing him to spend large portions of the day away from his family.
But with the support of his “superhero wife and understanding daughters”, they always find a way to make time for each other.
“If I can’t be here I will still call home and see how the girls are getting through with their homework and how they are doing, or I will complain that I’m here at work and they are at home and not even calling me,” he says with a chuckle.
“But I think they understand my job and what I do, so that does make things a whole lot easier.”