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The Obama girls grow up

12:28 PM, Jan 21, 2013   |    comments
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My, how they've grown.

Has it really been four years since Malia and Sasha Obama bounded into the White House?

Who could forget 7-year-old Sasha's high-pitched squeal when her father appeared on a giant video screen at the 2008 Democratic convention and she asked him,"Daddy, what city are you in?"

Or when Malia, 10, called out, "I love you, Daddy."

When President Obama takes the oath Monday for his second term, those adorable little girls in their adorable little frocks will be gone.

In their place are two stylish young ladies. Malia, 14, now in high school, stands nearly as tall as her mother's 5 feet, 11 inches. And like her mother, she's making an impression in trendy outfits.

Sasha, 11, doesn't seem to have lost any of her spunk.

As the Obama family started their day at St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House, the girls stepped into the next phase of their White House lives with poise, and still some of that hi-jinx.

As the president's limo pulled up to the church, the Obama daughters and their grandmother got out of the car behind it, Malia sneaked up to surprise her dad, shouting, "Boo!" as he got out.

"You scared me!" he told her, and then the first family went inside.

"They seem very graceful," says Doug Wead, an adviser to former presidents George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, and author of All the Presidents' Children, which looked at the family lives of the nation's presidents. "It speaks to their confidence, which also comes from their parents."

He says that confidence will come in handy as the girls get older, because presidential children often struggle to define themselves separately from their high-achieving parents.

The Obamas have done something that eluded other first families, he says: They appear to be a functional family with parents who set rules and provide structure and discipline.

"That's practically unheard of," he says. "First families by their nature are dysfunctional."

Chris Cumberbatch, 52, in town for the inaugural events, remembers Michelle Obama and the cute little girls from four years ago. He says it's been a joy to see the first family grow into their role.

"It seems the girls have matured and grown into stellar young ladies," he says. "It's enlightening to see an African- American family in the White House who are movers and shakers."

Wead says presidential families are famous for indulging their children and spoiling them.

Or, in the case of James Roosevelt, the oldest son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, ignoring them.

Wead tells the story of how the younger Roosevelt complained to his mother, Eleanor, that he never got time to talk with his father. Eleanor told him to do what she did: Make an appointment.

After the meeting, James Roosevelt said he'd never do that again. His father read memos the entire time, Wead says.

The president and first lady talk frequently about their girls, but they also insist that their daughters be photographed only during public events.

The girls have little to no presence online. They are not allowed to have Facebook accounts, Michelle Obama has said.

It will be fun watching them come of age, Wead says.

"They'll learn to drive," he says, and the president seems to be such a hands-on dad that he can see him getting in the car to teach them.

Obama himself often quips about how his daughters are growing up.

When he visited a Master Lock factory in Milwaukee last year to discuss American manufacturing, he got a laugh from the workers when he told them, "As I was looking at some of the really industrial-size locks, I was thinking about the fact that I am a father of two girls who are soon going to be in high school and that it might come in handy to have these super locks."

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