Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images; JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Malia and Sasha Obama have grown up before our eyes and while we don't get too many glimpses of them on the national stage (mom and dad are doing a good job keeping them out of the spotlight), we smile every time we see them. So what will the next four years be like - with Malia now a freshman in high school (she'll be heading off to college during the last year of her father's term!) and Sasha in her first year of middle school? We have some insights from none other than birthday girl First Lady Michelle Obama, who turns 49 today! She candidly talked about her girls during our interview with her last summer and during the roundtables she's done with women's sites, including iVillage. Here are ten things we've learned about the first girls:
1. Growing Up in Facebook Age
Malia and Sasha, according to their mom, are acutely aware of how they have a public image to uphold in an age when everyone has access to a cell phone. “I think they’re one of the first kids in the White House growing up where everybody’s got a cell phone and everybody’s watching,” said the first lady. “We just have to have real conversations even now, it's you can’t go off on somebody, you can’t act bratty…you may be having a moment but somebody could use that moment and try to define you forever.” Her message to both girls, “You are not going to have Facebook for a long time.” Something Mrs. Obama isn’t unhappy about at all!
2. Serious vs. Laid Back
Malia, a freshman in high school, is a “pretty serious student” and “takes her academic work very seriously,” said Mrs. Obama. Sasha seems “much more academically laid back,” she said. “Sasha is the kid who is like, 'How was school? Fine. What happened? Nothing.” The first lady said Sasha, who just started middle school, is “still young enough ... who she will be is still forming. You know when your kids become teenagers, you start to see them.”
3. Don't Be a Box Checker!
Mrs. Obama told us she’s aware of the academic pressures many kids face today, including her own. “It’s like, well, I got to take these courses, I got to check these boxes.” She encourages Malia not to become “a box checker.” She tells her, "If you’re putting your best in, don’t worry about the 'A' because you might get a 'C' taking a course that you’re really going to grow in. So I would hate for you to be that kid that doesn’t take the course that they’re going to get the 'C' in because they don’t want the 'C,' as opposed to being interested in learning.”
4. When I Grow Up, I'll Be A...
No definite word on what the girls hope to do when they grow up but the first lady said Malia, just a few months ago, asked her for the first time about her job as Vice President of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Hospitals. "We had a conversation about that...because now she's old enough to think about why did you do that job and how did you feel about it. Malia's just now starting to care about what we do because now she's getting into that stage where she's thinking about who she wants to be." (Since our interview, the first lady told People magazine that Malia shares her dad’s interest in movies and books and has expressed some interest in a possible career in film.)
5. Career in Public Office?
One career won’t be off limits even if it’s a no go for mom – elected office. Mrs. Obama said while she would “never consider running for office,” she would never discourage her girls from a political life. “I would support my girls in doing anything they want to do. I always encourage them, think about your passions, think about your gifts, don’t think about what dad does or what somebody else wants you to do, and if it’s politics, if it’s serving in the military, if it’s being a stay at home mom, I just want them to have the confidence in whatever choice they make.”
6. Dating in the White House?
Mrs. Obama, during our exclusive interview in August, told us that Malia is not dating yet – she also said this is one subject she won’t be discussing once it starts happening. “One thing I’ve, you know, will not do… is not sort of talk about that part of the girls’ lives because I would be pretty humiliated if my mother would be talking about my dating life on iVillage. We’re not in that territory yet, we just take it one step at a time, one child at a time.” When asked if the girls will be allowed to date, the president joked to US Weekly, “I think that any young man who has got the guts to get through Secret Service deserves a hearing!" The president then said the first lady does everything she can to make life as “normal” as possible for the girls. “Michelle is very good about making sure that we're creating a space for them where they can have sleepovers. They can go to the mall. They can go to the movies," the president said. "They're going to homecomings at their school."
7. More Play Dates for Bo
Sasha worried Bo needed more “dog interaction” so Mrs. Obama crammed a doggie play date in just a few weeks before the election. “This has been a goal of Sasha’s for quite some time, because she’s really feeling, on top of everything else I have to worry about, that Bo doesn’t have enough dog interaction.” The play date included friends of Malia and Sasha’s, their moms and their dogs. All the moms, as you can imagine, were worried their pooch would poop at the White House! “There was no poop on the South Lawn,” Mrs. Obama said. “You could see all the mothers kind of go, phew, okay. The kids, all the while, were crunched over by the snack table eating. And we were like, this is your play date. Go run with these dogs.”
8. Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Yep, we learned Malia and Sasha like watching this show and that dad isn't too pleased about it. "Barack really thinks some of the Kardashians -- when they watch that stuff -- he doesn't like that as much," said the first lady, "but I sort of feel like if we're talking about it, and I'm more concerned with how they take it in -- what did you learn when you watched that. And if they're learning the right lessons, like, that was crazy, then I'm like, okay." Over the summer, during our interview, Mrs. Obama said, “My view is they live in this culture and I think they need to explore all of it – the great and the not so great. I’d be more concerned if Malia hadn’t read Grapes of Wrath that summer... You can tell whether your kids are balanced and what they’re picking up.” She added, “I can’t contain everything that happens to them, just like I can’t keep them from eating candy all day when they go outside...You’ve got to learn how to maneuver the real world, the big bad world with all the candy and bad TV and crazy characters...So I don’t trip about that, as the kids would say.”
9. More "Character Building Experiences."
Malia and Sasha are growing up far differently from the way their mom and dad grew up, something Malia worries might mean she is not having enough "character building experiences," as she calls them according to her mom. “What we tell them is that they’re blessed. So we don’t indulge in, ‘Oh, you’re the president’s kid. It must be hard.’ I’m like, your life is not hard. You just – you are so far from living hard... So I think in Malia’s mind, she’s like, well maybe I’m not learning enough. Maybe I need more hardship in my life if I’m going to really be this solid person. So I always try to point out the things that are hardships for her so she can understand there is learning in everything, that you don’t have to be homeless to be able to empathize and understand. But you’ve got to be aware, and you’ve got to be reading, and you got to be curious.”
10. A Family Pep Talk Before the Inaugural Address
The first lady said the girls need to be “reminded” to “look like” they’re listening when their dad gives big and important speeches. “On convention night, when we were backstage, the one thing he was saying: Just look like you’re listening. That’s all I want.” She said the girls “still don’t have that focused poker face...They just don’t know how to exude, you know? And they’re not thinking about needing to exude so Barack was just – just look like you’re listening.” Mrs. Obama added, “So all through his speech at the convention, I’m like leaning over like – I’m not hearing anything, because I’m like, ‘Just smile.’ So Sasha throughout was like, ‘Is this good?...Was that a good joke? I didn’t really get it but I smiled.’ I was like, that’s it. That’s my girl.”
I bet the girls will be smiling - and even listening - on Monday, the first day of their dad's next term as president.
In honor of the first lady's birthday, we wanted to showcase how often she wears brands mere mortals like us wear all the time. From Target to H&M to JCrew, she looks good and doesn't break the bank. Check this out!