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On Parenting
Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 11/08/2012

Sasha and Malia’s new term

Of all the arresting images from the culmination of the 2012 presidential election, one that stood out for many parents was the sight of the two graceful young ladies who accompanied the victor.

Wow. Four years is a long time in a child’s life.

Even Obama acknowledged the fact in his acceptance speech. “Sasha and Malia, before our very eyes, you’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women.”
President Obama hugs his daughters Sasha (L) and Malia (R) on election night Nov. 6, 2012, in Chicago. (JEWEL SAMAD - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Except that the girls have not grown up in front of “our” eyes — that’s what made the sight of them so startling. We haven’t seen much of either since they stole the Inaugural show back in 2008.

From time to time we might see an official photo or a stray news item. Their parents refer to them occasionally to make points about responsible parenting and family priorities. Otherwise, the Obamas have been adamant that their girls remain out of the spotlight.

Michelle Obama has said she will not allow them on Facebook and says she goes to great lengths to protect them from the harm tremendous privilege and attention can introduce into a childhood.

Their success in this effort is why so many of us on Wednesday were talking about Malia’s height. When did that happen?

As they get older, though, the challenges of remaining private will come quick and fast.

“Malia will presumably want to learn how to drive while living in the White House — a feat that could be challenging given that her parents travel in motorcades. Then there’s the angst-ridden challenge of dating while living in the White House,” Krissah Thompson writes in today’s Post.

Thompson points out that Malia is a freshman at Sidwell Friends and Sasha is a sixth-grader. Up until now, their lives seem to revolve around sleepovers and homework.

By the end of the second term, however, they will be 18 and 15.

That’s a whole different universe.

Other teens in the White House have made some splashy headlines, from Alice Roosevelt to two secret service-shedding twins.

Those presidential children survived seemingly unscathed. But they didn’t have to contend with social media and technology’s ubiquity.

Will it be possible, in the next four years at a time of great personal change, for these two young ladies to remain relatively sheltered? If so, how?

Count that up there among the daunting tasks ahead for this first family.

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