Malia and Sasha Obama, now 22 and 19, spent their childhood growing up in the White House and being trailed by Secret Service everywhere they went — even on playdates in elementary school. Despite this unconventional upbringing, former First Lady Michelle Obama said on her Spotify podcast that she tried to give them as “normal” childhood as she possibly could. Yes, even when they had guards standing on the sidelines at their peewee basketball games!
When she and her husband, former President Barack Obama, learned that they were heading to the White House in 2008, they had to come up with a new parenting plan, she explained on the August 19 episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast. “It was like, if they’re gonna be normal, we have to be normal parents,” Obama said in conversation with her brother, Craig Robinson. “We made sure they had responsibilities, and so, we had to do things like, institute rules that the housekeepers couldn’t clean the girls’ rooms, and that they had to make up their own beds, and have a set of chores.”
Fostering a sense of normalcy was easier said than done, though. She shared an adorable anecdote about the Secret Service agents who were forced to go to recess in elementary school every day with dozens of wild children. They wound up pushing kids on swings and playing games. Sasha and Malia‘s friends loved the agents so much that they brought them cookies.
Encouraging individuality and not treating Sasha and Malia simply as the First Daughters was also key, the former FLOTUS said. “I think that mom and dad did a good job of recognizing us as individuals,” she told her brother. “And so I’ve tried to do that with Malia and Sasha… I’m trying my best to make sure that Malia and Sasha feel like they’re on the same team, even though they’re two girls. And, all that, their success is each other’s success, that’s all you have. That sibling relationship is special.”
The Michelle Obama Podcast airs Wednesday mornings on Spotify.