Is It a "Gift" for Kids to Grow Up in the White House?

Thu, November 6, 2008

Presidential Campaigns


In an interview about the possibility of living in the White House with young children, Michelle Obama said she thought it would be a “gift” for her daughters to grow up there, being witness to history and having the chance to meet world leaders.

As an adult, it probably is a gift and an amazing experience, but for a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old, I’m thinking — not so much.

Of course, I don’t know their kids, but I do have a third-grade daughter who is just starting to get to the stage where she couldn’t care less about what’s going on in her parents’ lives. PunditGirl has her own agenda these days and it doesn’t involve the imposition of our schedules, professional responsibilities or what we think are enriching learning opportunities. As far as she’s concerned, it should be no problem for us to shelve work or social obligations for ice skating, soccer or sleep-overs.

Malia does seem pretty self-possessed, but I have to imagine that the thought of leaving her school, her friends and the home she’s grown up in will be a bit traumatic — it would be for any child, no matter how exciting a move to a new city sounds. Sure they’ll get the run of the White House (though probably not as much as Sophie on the Disney show Cory in the House!) and they are getting a new puppy, but the first daughters are going to have a very different life when they get here.

Odds are, they’ll be attending one of the premiere private schools in D.C. Even though they’re used to a private school setting, tossing in a Secret Service presence can only make it awkward to make new friends, fit in and carve out their own space, especially in the middle of the school year.

PunditGirl has been friends with her classmates for four years and I shudder to think how she would take it if we told her that we were moving to a new town and a new school where she knew no one, the neighborhoods were unfamiliar and where we couldn’t see extended family often because the logistics would be too hard to manage.

I haven’t taken a poll of Amy Carter, Chelsea Clinton or the Bush twins, but I hope one of them reaches out to Malia and Sasha to prepare them as much as is possible for the irrevocable life change that’s about to befall them.

As for making new friends, I don’t have a lot of room for the Secret Service to hang out, but Malia and Sasha are welcome to come over and hang out with PunditGirl in her tree house anytime!

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11 Responses to “Is It a "Gift" for Kids to Grow Up in the White House?”

  1. Karrie Welborn Says:

    There was an interesting interview yesterday morning on NPR with Roosevelt’s grandson about his experience growing up in the White House. I believe he also wrote a book about same.

    I’m having trouble finding it online, but will keep looking.

  2. jen lemen Says:

    madeleine is ten and in fourth grade. i hear you. in my dream world they get to have playdates, secret service in your treehouse and all.

  3. Smiling Mama Says:

    I was thinking this same thing. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful new First Family but for those girls, well, it will be tough. I hope Chelsea does reach out to them.

  4. BananaBlueberry Says:

    good point;

    I think there will be tough times for them but I think it always comes down to the parents and I think the Obamas are good parents…

    and it’s so nice that they have your tree house to play in anytime with Punditgirl !

  5. Holly Says:

    I don’t know. I think it will not be your typical or normal childhood but like many changes in life, it will be what their parents make it. Lots of kids move frequently and there are some John Doe kids who have a very restrictive lifestyle without all the perks of the WH. It won’t be easy, but it wouldn’t be easy if the family were in the military or one of their parents were a minister which might require a move every few years either.

    One of the things I have watched through the election is body language and consistency. Both Barack and Michelle are comfortable with themselves and with their children. After Barack took the stage with his family, as the girls left the stage with their mother, she was holding their hands talking to them. It was a natural, easy thing for them. It was not put on, or false or stiff. That speaks volumes to me. As did the comment about earning the puppy that will come to the WH with the kids. They are important enough to Barack that he will honor his promise to them and acknowledged it on national TV with the nation watching. Is it a big thing? No and yes. It’s another behavioral indication that he is what he is and where his priorities lie. Puppies are easy to come by for anyone, he did not have to say that out loud, but he did. A parent who is that honest, is probably going to be hip deep in parenting before he got there and will not forget his babies now. I also watched him leave his campaign to attend to his grandmother. And again, it was the tone, the body language and the body language that went along with that hiccup in his campaigning that I watched. He took care of his family matters the way you or I would. Quietly and with surety.

    I don’t see this as being a disaster, I think they are hands on parents and will make sure their kids are as balanced and happy as they can be.

  6. Kori Says:

    I would also have to assume that any elite public school the kids will go to, there will be other children of politicians or movie stars or whatever there with their own bodygurds-I dobt it weill even rasie an eyebrow. Will it be hard? I am SURE it will-but I think they have a great foundation laid already, and agree with the above poster wholeheartedly.

  7. Momish Says:

    You bring up such a good point and it would great if the other ex-WH kids reach out to them.

    I still think that no matter what, even with the downfalls and hurdles they will face, they will soak up the experience for all its worth. They just seem that cool.

    And it is a gift they will have for the rest of their lives, hurdles and all. Such experiences will only make them stronger in the end. After all, from the day he bagan this race, their lives were changed. They were thrown into the public eye. There would be no going back at this point. Better to go forward in such grand style with such amazing experiences that lay ahead for them all.

    And the puppy will definitely help!

  8. suburban dyke Says:

    But what about kids who have queer parents?

    Let’s fight back on Proposition 8. Let’s boycott California wines, produce and travel. Let’s publicize it. Let’s embarrass them. It worked a few years ago in Colorado. What do say?

  9. Donna Says:

    Well, it is a gift of sorts. We move our kids every few years (we’re foreign service), and it is really hard on them to up and switch schools, houses, friends, countries… So if you ask my kids now, no, this lifestyle isn’t a gift. But later, looking back, I expect they’ll appreciate their unique upbringing. I imagine it’ll be the same for the Obama kids. Moving into the WH, with a secret service detail and all the rest of the craziness, won’t be easy. But they’ll get some great memories and opportunities out of it. So looking back, I’d think they’ll remember it as a gift… even if they make their parents’ lives a living hell for the next few months.

    My two cents,

  10. Corina Says:

    My hope is that they stay grounded admist all of the changes. It seems like Mrs. Obama has done a pretty good job so far. I expect that will stay the same.

  11. Houseonahill Says:

    Sasha and Malia are very well rounded and sweet girls.

    It will be a “gift” of service to their country, is what I suspect she meant.

    Having seen her action, Michelle Obama is fiercely protective, almost to the point of rudeness…Secret Service has nothing on her.

    I too hope that other White House alum share with them, Chelsea in particular, as she seems to be so poised and a delight.

    Great post!


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