Malia and Natasha “Sasha” Obama have grown up before America’s eyes. Just 10 and 7 years old when their father Barack Obama was elected to the United States Presidency in 2008, the two have since matured into lovely young women with ambitions and interests all their own. Now that the duo has officially moved out of the White House, here’s a look at the untold truth of their journey to and through their two terms as First Daughters.
Sasha was joining her mom on the job from the start
Malia and Sasha Obama were born — both reportedly delivered by family friend, Anita Blanchard — just before their father’s political ambitions began to really take stride. Michelle Obama revealed to Parade that when the former President was beginning his journey to the Senate seat for the state of Illinois, Sasha was still an infant and Michelle had to bring her to a job interview.
“I didn’t have a babysitter, so I took Sasha right in there with me in her crib and her rocker,” she explained. “I told my boss, ‘This is what I have: two small kids. My husband is running for the U.S. Senate. I will not work part time. I need flexibility. I need a good salary. I need to be able to afford babysitting. And if you can do all that… I can work hard on a flexible schedule.’ I was very clear. And he said yes to everything.”
Sasha was very sick as an infant
Around the same time Barack Obama was seeking a Senate seat, Sasha was diagnosed with meningitis, and despite his many challenges in the Oval Office, the former Father in Chief still counts her illness as the most difficult point in his life. During a 2009 town hall (via Politico), Obama explained that his “precious pea” developed the disease when she was just 3 months old.
“People ask me what was the hardest time in my life — they ask, well what about during the debt ceiling debate and this and that and the other thing. Sasha got meningitis when she was 3 months old. I still remember going to the hospital together and they had to give her a spinal tap. Your world narrows to this very small point. There’s one thing you care about and you don’t care about anything else.”
Ultimately, Sasha pulled through and went on to become the youngest child to reside in the White House since John F. Kennedy was President, according to Today.
They weren’t spoiled with riches
Despite their status as part of America’s First Family, the Obamas made efforts to keep their daughters grounded in reality while growing up in the nation’s capital. One such tactic, the couple revealed, was to keep their materialism to a minimum. They told People they didn’t give the girls gifts on their birthdays — justifying that the expenses of the party alone was enough reward for the occasion — and that they didn’t want them to become spoiled.
“They get so much stuff that it just becomes numbing. Malia believes there is still a Santa Claus even though she’s a little wary because some of her friends are non-believers. But Malia says, ‘Ma, I know there is a Santa because there’s no way you’d buy me all that stuff,'” Michelle explained. Their allowance for chores while back in Chicago, too, was pretty slim — they made just a dollar a week for helping out around the house, with obligations like setting the table and picking up their toys. They also had technology and television restrictions to only the weekends while in the White House and were forbidden from having dessert or post-dinner snacks if they skipped their vegetables at supper, Michelle revealed to The New York Times.
Of course, they also weren’t denied certain privileges associated with their parents’ achievements. The girls were sent to some of the finest private schools in Chicago and Washington, D.C. — the University of Chicago Laboratory School and Sidwell Friends School, respectively.
The Obama girls inspired their dad to run for office
After his original inauguration, Barack Obama penned an open letter to his daughters in Parade, highlighting his hopes for their future. In addition to thanking them for their participation and patience during his campaign, Obama wrote his aspirations for his daughters that reflected much of his public policy decisions while in office.
“I realized that my own life wouldn’t count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that’s why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.” In other words, it was Malia and Sasha who ultimately inspired the former POTUS’ decision to run in the first place.
Bo, the First Dog, was their prize for patience
Their allowances might’ve been scant, but the Obama sisters did get a very nice thank you gift from their parents once Barack Obama won his bid for the White House: their Portuguese Water Dog, Bo. The animal was a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy and fit the family’s criteria for a desired breed — namely, he is a hypoallergenic dog, which was of chief importance because of Malia’s allergies. While Bo might seem like a nod to Barack Obama’s initials, he was actually named by the Obama sisters as a tribute to Bo Diddley, since Michelle’s father was nicknamed Diddley.
The First Family added a second dog in 2013 to help fill the void left by Malia and Sasha growing up and not having as much time for Bo (or their parents, for that matter). As Barack Obama told CNN, “Bo was getting lonely because the two other puppies are grown up. And they still have some responsibilities for him, but they’re not always around between school, sports practice, all that stuff. And so Bo was getting a little down in the dumps inside the house.”
They had chores in the White House, too
If Malia and Sasha thought moving to the White House meant getting waited on hand and foot, boy were they in for a rude awakening. Michelle and Barack made sure the girls kept a strict schedule that included an 8 o’clock sharp bedtime and an ordinary routine of daily chores. As detailed by The New York Times, Malia and Sasha were expected to make their own beds, clean up their dog’s bathroom piles, and get themselves ready in the mornings for school.
As Michelle explained, “That was the first thing I said to some of the staff when I did my visit [telling staff] ‘Don’t make their beds. Make mine. Skip the kids. They have to learn these things.'”
Malia had some high-security driving lessons
The Obamas might’ve tried to give their daughters normal teen lives where and when they could, but there were some things that just would never be ordinary about their upbringing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One such aspect was the experience of learning to drive. Instead of taking the wheel with one of her parents to learn the ropes, Malia was actually trained to drive by her Secret Service officials. Michelle told Rachael Ray (via CNN) that her then-16-year-old daughter was not only taught to drive by her protection agents, but that Michelle wasn’t allowed to join them for the occasion.
“The Secret Service [taught her], actually, because they wouldn’t let me in the car with her,” she explained, adding that Malia has on occasion since been able to ditch her security detail to drive on her own. “She always has security around. But in order for her to learn how to drive, she had to drive on her own. So once she was legally permitted to drive on her own, she gets in her car… Driving for Malia, I think, gives her a sense of normalcy, like the rest of her friends are doing. And my kids have got to learn how to live in the world like normal kids.”
Fun fact: Malia and Sasha’s Secret Service code names were Radiance and Rosebud respectively, while their parents’ were Renegade (for Barack) and Renaissance (for Michelle).
They were raised to play two sports
Barack Obama might’ve been a notorious fan of basketball and football, but his daughters’ recreational activity of choice (well, sort of choice) is tennis. Michelle told crowds at the 2013 U.S. Open that she nudged her kids onto the court because of her own lack of access to the sport when she was growing up.
“It’s a great way to stay healthy, to stay fit, it’s a lifelong sport, it’s something I’ve tried to tell my kids — I forced them into playing tennis, because I didn’t want them to be like me, but it’s a great way to stay active,” she said.
She told The New York Times that one of her rules for the girls was to play two sports — one they enjoyed, and one they didn’t pick. “I want them to understand what it feels like to do something you don’t like and to improve,” she explained. Malia in particular became very good at the sport and was even considered to be on track for a potential college career in the sport.
Malia’s second language has come in handy
When the Obama family made their historic trip to Cuba in 2016, it was Malia who did all the talking. The then-President told ABC News that his eldest daughter had become so strong with her Spanish-speaking skills that she actually served as his personal interpreter during the trip. He explained, “Her Spanish is much better than mine, and I’m hoping she has a chance to get entirely fluent.”
To practice, Malia joined some of her classmates on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2012, then enjoyed a summer 2016 embassy internship in Spain, before embarking on a secret three-month trip to South America later in the year.
Source: Nicki Swift