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The Obama Girls Growing Up Grounded


On weeknights, the television goes off. Outside of school assignments, computer use is severely limited. In the evenings, piano lessons rule. You would think if your father was the leader of the free world, you’d have some, well, freedom.

But for first daughters Sasha and Malia Obama, staying low key––out of the spotlight and into their books––has been a carefully crafted plan executed by President Obama and his wife Michelle during their historic tenure in the White House.

In a world where preteens Whip Their Hair and kids and strangers engage in unfettered online dialog, Sasha and Malia are being raised the old-fashioned way.

The first lady said as much and turned quite a few heads in an early February interview on the “Today Show.” Michelle Obama said that she was “not a big fan of young kids having Facebook.” The comment struck a chord with parents across the nation, especially in a day and age where kids still in elementary school have smartphones and easy Internet access. (Facebook, for its part, responded that the Obama girls, nine and 12 didn’t meet the site’s 13-and-up age requirement.)

The Obamas are fond of saying that even if their daughters were not in the White House, where security-minded Secret Service agents help coordinate the family’s every move, the girls still would not be wild and loose. Part of that regimented lifestyle has to do with the view that the president, like most fathers, has of his girls.

Last summer, Obama told a group at a political fundraiser that although his oldest daughter was maturing in age, he still saw her as a child. “I don’t have teenagers yet. Malia just turned 12,” Obama said. “Even though she’s 5 [feet] 9 [inches] now, she’s still my baby.” It was one of the few times the president had even mentioned his daughters’ names during a public speech. And it was the last.

Another reason for their stringent family dynamic may be due to the upbringing of the Obamas themselves, especially Michelle. Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Michelle Robinson was part of a nuclear family with “the mother at home, the father works, you have dinner around the table,” she once said. For entertainment, her family played board games and read books.

Also at play is the fact that America, the world even, is watching the Obamas on Capitol Hill with a level of scrutiny that is unprecedented for a major head of state. Any false move, by the girls or their parents, will be sharply debated and ostracized in every public forum.

But are Sasha and Malia overprotected? Do they have friends and sleepovers like normal kids? Of course they do. Even while on the campaign trail in 2008 the Obamas prepared for eight 7-year-olds to spend the night to celebrate Sasha’s birthday. “They shouldn’t call these sleepovers,” President Obama said at the time. “They should call them wake-overs.”

The news and tabloids may not have any juicy gossip to report on the exploits of the Obama girls, who also benefit from having their grandmother Marian Robinson live in the White House, but it’s probably safe to assume that they are having a ball.

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