HOW TO PARENT LIKE THE OBAMAS
'You can't beat daughters. You cannot beat daughters'
Where do we even begin with this special family? Barack and Michelle Obama will be leaving the White House in January 2017 and, though we can barely speak for tears, it's time to look back on the Greatest First Family of All Time to find out what they can teach us about parenting.
The First Family is made up of Barack (POTUS) and Michelle (FLOTUS), their teenage daughters Malia, 18 and Sasha, 15 and their two dogs, Bo and Sunny. With the girls being only 10 and seven when their father was first elected as President of the United States in 2008, the family has grown up gracefully before our eyes.
Apart from being two of the busiest people in the world, one of the coolest pair of parents on the planet (with a very enviable list of celebrity friends), one thing that’s so striking about B + M is their commitment to spending quality time together with family. With Michelle and the President’s individual organisations and passions aligned with reaching out to young people (for e.g. My Brother's Keeper and Let Girls Learn) and it being the last few months before the First Family leave the White House, we celebrate the Obamas in their entirety and celebrate their endless list of parenting wins. Here’s a list of some of the things that we can learn about parenting from the First Parents by Elizabeth Adetula.
1. If the President of the United States has time to read to his kids, so do you...
It can be very difficult to make time for reading with kids. You might be too tired, or you might just forget. Not in the Obama household. When Malia was younger, the then Democratic hopeful read all six of the Harry Potter books to her aloud.
2. ‘Remember what’s important’
In a talk at the White House last year, addressing the new White House interns, Barack O shared some words of wisdom about parenting and getting the right balance with your work and personal commitments. Putting it very simply, he explained, ‘Kids demand your attention. It’s very time consuming when they’re small. So, very practical advice - be a little settled before. That will help you get that balance.’ He also emphasised how vital it was to ‘remember what’s important,’ and when you’re at home, to give your family the attention they deserve. Making the interns laugh he also added, ‘Don’t be home and you’re watching a ball game and once in awhile you say, ‘Hey, kid.’ Be engaged.’
3. No spoilt brats here, please
You would think that being the First Daughters, Malia and Sasha would have everything at their beck and call. They do (remember how Barack promised his daughters a dog if he got into the White House?), but one thing their parents have ensured is that they’re not above chores. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, talking about Malia who was learning how to drive, FLOTUS revealed that she instructed the White House staff and secret service not to spoil the girls, as they’ve got to learn how to do things for themselves. ‘When we’re out of here, in a few years, they’ve got to be able to function as normal people. So driving is a part of that.’
4. ‘The heart of our hearts, the center of our world’
As well as laying down the law and setting your kids along the straight and narrow, one thing we can learn from Mummy and Daddy O is to appreciate your kids. In a very moving speech, Michelle talked about how her daughters were growing into such brilliant young women and how proud she was of them. As you would be! Daddy O also coos about his daughters, once telling Jimmy Fallon ‘You can’t beat daughters. You cannot beat daughters.’ Girls rule, ok?!
5. Appreciate your partner
‘They’re smart, they’re funny. They take after their mom, and Michelle’s done a great job with them.’ Raising kids is not always easy, whether they’re tiny toddlers or troublesome teenagers, so as we can see from Mr and Mrs O (who are 24 years deep), giving credit to your partner and showing appreciation goes a very long way.
6. It really does take a village
Even though Mummy and Daddy O impressively parent their daughters while simultaneously ruling the world, they need help too sometimes. When the First Parents are not available to chaperone Malia and Sasha abroad or to special events, Michelle’s mother who she calls her ‘secret weapon’ - Marian Robinson - looks after the girls. So much so that Marian has her very own abode in the White House.
7. Talk to your kids and be open-minded
Be open to your kids teaching you about their world and what interests them, even if it means getting a tutorial on that weird Snapchat thing. Have discussions with them, like the Obamas do. These discussions could lead to world change. Okay that sounds pretty farfetched, however, POTUS has admitted that his perspectives and decisions made in office, including on same-sex equality, were influenced by conversations he had with his daughters.
8. Family comes first
No doubt having late boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s funeral on the same day as Malia’s high school graduation would have been tough on POTUS. But Barack Obama’s commitment to his family meant that he couldn’t miss his eldest child’s big day. But, out of respect to Ali and being emotional about this big milestone in his daughter's life, he declined to give a speech at the graduation and wore dark sunglasses to hide his tears. Bless him.
9. Live a little
‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ Not with the Os. To add to that long list of things we love about the First Parents is that they know how to have a laugh. Remember that time Michelle belted some tunes with James Corden on Carpool Karaoke? Or that time Obama donned a tiara with these girl scouts and still managed to look super cool?
10. Hosts with the most
Did we mention that they throw some awesome parties for kids too? 'It's POTUS!'
11. They genuinely care about young people
The Obamas are happy to be role models. Fully aware that young people look up to them, they actively work towards making a positive impact. In an interview on the Ellen Show, Michelle said, ‘I do take the role seriously. I know that kids are watching us, what we say, what we do, and Barack and I have tried to make sure that what kids are seeing is something that they can be proud of, because it matters.’
12. The fact that an #Obamaandkids hashtag even exists.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. POTUS is a true natural when it comes to kids and babies, and this Twitter hashtag is a testament to this. Cue the awws.