x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

'My father became a dad again at 70'

One of 13 children from four wives, Abdullah Ahmad thinks fatherhood should be the province of younger men.

(From left): Brothers Abdullah Alhebsi, 26, Sultan Alhebsi, 8, and Waleed Alhebsi, 29, are photographed in the courtyard of their childhood home in Ras Al Khaimah. Sarah Dea / The National
(From left): Brothers Abdullah Alhebsi, 26, Sultan Alhebsi, 8, and Waleed Alhebsi, 29, are photographed in the courtyard of their childhood home in Ras Al Khaimah. Sarah Dea / The National

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Two years ago, when he was about 70, Rashid Ahmad Al Hebsi had his 13th child. The boy, Salem, is the child of his fourth wife.

Although all 13 children are happy and healthy, Mr Al Hebsi's son Abdulla said he hopes the study linking a father's age to genetic problems in children would deter the community from starting a family later in life.

Older fathers do not have the same strength and endurance to raise children as younger men do, said Abdulla, 26, adding that he experiences this in his own family. "My dad is very old and needs a lot of help," he said. "He can't chase after his kids. It's very difficult for an older man to take on the responsibility of raising a family."

It is the mothers or the older siblings who do most of the tending to the younger ones, Abdulla said. He stressed that it was not only a matter of physical condition, but a generation gap.

"I can see it when we're trying to speak to him, sometimes he cannot understand what the younger ones are trying to say," Abdulla said.

From Ras Al Khaimah, the Al Hebsis are one of many such expansive families in the emirate. However, Abdulla said he sees the practice decreasing every year.

"Life is not like before," he said. "It has become so much more expensive and it is very difficult to keep up with the finances of having more than one family."

The Al Hebsi family come together every Friday for lunch at their home in Ras Al Khaimah to catch up on each other's lives.

And although Abdulla loves his family dearly, he has a strong stance against having children late in life, and the findings of the new study only strengthen it.

"If we now have scientific evidence that shows this is unsafe, then maybe we can stop it" he said. "While I encourage having a family, I also encourage doing it responsibly.

"This may have been needed for various reasons before, but not any more. In this day [and] age, one family is enough."

 

mismail@thenational.ae