Now that it's election season, everyone wants to know: are you better off than you were four years ago? That's a complicated question. Here's an easier one: have Sasha and Malia grown from adorable little girls into beautiful and poised young women? Answer: a resounding YES!
If you've been watching the Obamas speak at the Democratic National Convention, you may have noticed something weird: Sasha and Malia are no longer 7 and 10 years old, respectively. It's a little shocking because, although Barack and Michelle talk about their kids all of the time, we rarely actually see them. As the AP points out, most viewers have had the same image of the spunky, cheerful girls in their minds since 2008 because "there hasn't been a steady stream of images to relate to," said Sandra Sobieraj, a People White House correspondent.
But now we have to face facts and the unstoppable passage of time: Sasha is an 11-year-old sixth grader and Malia is 14, about to enter high school, and 5'9''. As the First Lady said in her DNC speech this week, the family spends dinner time "strategizing about middle-school friendships." (Which evokes an amazing image of a diplomatic Obama wrinkling his brow and saying, "Well, can't you just ask Tessa why you weren't invited to her sleepover party? Is she related to Bohner?")
As aw-inducing as it is to see Sasha and Malia all grown up, we're glad we don't see photos of them too often, because it seems (or at least makes us feel) like they're leading a relatively normal life, and as Anita McBride, a former chief of staff to Laura Bush, told the AP, that's like chicken soup for both right and left-wing souls. "Whether you support this president or not, you want to know that it's healthy and grounding and going well at home," she said. "They clearly are a family that's got it together."
Of course, it's not like those "aw"s aren't calculated: our glimpses into Sasha and Malia's life are incredibly curated. Every proud and adoring anecdote that comes out of their parents' mouths makes them sound like the perfect balance between awkward camera-shy nerds (à la Chelsea Clinton) and overly camera-ready partiers (à la Barbara and Jenna Bush). As the New York Times points out:
The first couple clearly choose the stories they tell about their daughters carefully. The anecdotes are rarely about the celebrities the girls meet or their glamorous trips on Air Force One. If Malia and Sasha have felt anxiety or distress about the scrutiny and security they live with, the Obamas do not say so. Instead, the president and the first lady share upbeat anecdotes that reflect the rhythms of an ordinary American family: the end-of-season basketball tournament that Sasha's team won, her discovery that she liked tomatoes, the girls' enthusiasm for the television show "Modern Family."
The stories are an implicit counter to right-wing charges that Mr. Obama is a threatening figure, a socialist or somehow un-American.
Don't feel too decrepit; the Obama girls are still kids yet! Here's what it's like to live in the Mom-in-Chief's household:
- When the girls go on trips, they write reports on what they have seen, even if their school does not require it.
- Technology is for weekends. Malia may use her cellphone only then, and she and her sister cannot watch television or use a computer for anything but homework during the week.
- Malia and Sasha had to take up two sports: one they chose and one selected by their mother. "I want them to understand what it feels like to do something you don't like and to improve," the first lady has said.
- Malia must learn to do laundry before she leaves for college.
- The girls have to eat their vegetables, and if they say that they are not hungry, they cannot ask for cookies or chips later. "If you're full, you're full," Mrs. Obama said in an interview with Ladies' Home Journal. "I don't want to see you in the kitchen after that."
And how could we forget the time Obama warned his daughters "Yes, you do have to go to school in the morning" during his speech last night? Daaaaaaaaaaaad.
(Image via The White House.)