With their father’s re-election, Malia and Sasha Obama are assured of living practically all of their important and challenging years in the White House, under a spotlight so bright that the entire world is assessing their every move.
It can’t be easy.
Michelle Obama as much during a recent interview, when she acknowledged the dangers facing the girls as they become more social.
“I think they are . . . the first kids in the White House growing up where everybody’s got a cellphone and everybody’s watching,” the first lady said to the women’s Web site iVillage last month. “You may be having a moment, but somebody could use that moment and try to define you forever.”
George W. Bush’s twin daughters can attest to that, as their antics in college got blasted across the national media, leading to jokes about Jenna Bush’s hard-partying ways.
Malia will be moving on to college just as her time in the national spotlight is ending, which will probably come as a welcome relief to her.
The younger daughter, Sasha, moved into the White House at age 7 and will be leaving at age 15, in the throes of inevitable teenage dramas. By the time the odyssey is over, she may not even remember what her life was like before she was the president’s daughter and lived in a normal house and had a normal life without big burly men and tough women in sunglasses following her around.
The president said what many Americans probably were thinking during his acceptance speech on Wednesday morning, when he came out on stage with two lovely young ladies who clearly were no longer little girls—14-year-old Malia already looked to be as tall as the 5-11 first lady.
“I’m so proud of you guys,” the president said. “Sasha and Malia, before our very eyes, you’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women.”
While both of the Obamas and their friends have emphasized the extraordinary efforts they have undergone to make the lives of their daughters as normal as possible in the media glare, the president and first lady have both made joking comments about enjoying the specter of Malia dating with Secret Service agents nearby. In an appearance on “The Late Show” with David Letterman in September, the president said it was going to be difficult to watch them start dating, but on the other hand “they’re surrounded by men with guns.”
No matter what craziness is going on in the world, the president always makes sure he’s back in the White House residence by 6:30 p.m. so that they can all have family dinner together—though he acknowledged that with all of their activities and interests these days, it’s often the girls who can’t make it or don’t seem all that invested in the tradition. The president has used basketball as another family activity, serving as an assistant coach of 11-year-old Sasha’s basketball team, the Vipers, and often bringing together both daughters and their friends on Sundays for basketball practice.
Michelle told Jimmy Kimmel that the girls go trick-or-treating with friends, attend sports tournaments and have sleepovers—and this past summer, the girls went to sleep-away camp in New Hampshire, along with the Secret Service.
The girls definitely are not hermits. According to the Washington Post, they have been spotted with friends around Washington—but the press corps has agreed not to routinely write about the first daughters, unless they are with their parents at an official event. But this policy probably doesn’t extend to TMZ—so the girls better watch out as they move into their teen years.
Before big speeches, the Post said, their father sometimes pleads with them to “just look like you’re listening.” Their mother said she reminds them to smile. They have no “poker face,” she told Kimmel.
“The last thing you want is yawning,” the first lady said.