Sasha Obama, in London with mom and Malia. is celebrating her 8th birthday today.
The Obamas apparently celebrated by taking a tour of the Harry Potter set and going to see The Lion King last night, and one can only assume there will be some cake action today, the actual birthday. As Sasha will soon learn, eight is maybe the best age, ever. Even in these times of benighted childhood, 8 seems safely below the sophisticated marketing threshold - although maybe the last year that one is. You're doing real math in school, reading Ramona and Natalie Babbit - to yourself, for fun - and
are allowed to bring in cupcakes instead of bran muffins for the first time
are old enough to have some independence. Eight is "kid." You're not a little kid, you're not a tween, you're a straight-up kid.
As any parent or teacher or caretaker knows, eight-year-olds are fun to hang out with. And as a grown-up, it's a period that's easy to remember but still pleasantly glossed with childhood*. Sasha Obama has won everyone's hearts because she's such a kid - she seems happy and unaffected and not overly precocious, in a time when the portrayal of kids is increasingly precious or precocious (cough, Alec Greven.) In that way, she and her sister are terrific role models for other kids - although one hopes they don't know it.
In this, your eighth year, we wish you: happiness, friends, excitement, an easy transition to a new school, interesting studies, and most of all, plenty of freedom to be a kid and have adventures. Happy birthday, Sasha, honorary baby-Belle and First 8-Year-Old.
*[Off topic: When I was eight, I was a self-righteous little tyrant. That was the year that some friends and I started a "nature shop" during recess from which we dispensed polished acorns, grass baskets, and stuff made out of bark. Another group of girls stole the idea and opened a rival nature shop mere feet away, even though there was not a market to support two. My business partners and I were furious. Nevertheless, when I learned that they, without consulting me, had gone before school one day and trashed the rival business, destroying their wares and scattering their acorns, I was indignant. I delivered a lecture of such blistering intensity that apparently one girl went home in tears. My parents got a phone call about it from her angry mom. But whatever, I was right.]