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Sinead Ryan: Sasha and Malia aren't rude or moody, they're simply teenage girls

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President Barack Obama, joined by his daughters Malia, right, and Sasha, centre, speaks at the White House during the presidential ceremony. Elizabeth Lauten's comments; including "dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar" in an apparent reference to the girls' short skirts; drew widespread criticism (AP)

President Barack Obama, joined by his daughters Malia, right, and Sasha, centre, speaks at the White House during the presidential ceremony. Elizabeth Lauten's comments; including "dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar" in an apparent reference to the girls' short skirts; drew widespread criticism (AP)

President Barack Obama, joined by his daughters Malia, right, and Sasha, centre, speaks at the White House during the presidential ceremony. Elizabeth Lauten's comments; including "dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar" in an apparent reference to the girls' short skirts; drew widespread criticism (AP)

Bringing small children out in company is always fraught with uncertainty.

You worry about temper tantrums, rudeness in public and demanding crying sprees for no reason at all. 

But let me tell you, having older ones with you isn’t any more fun. 

They mightn’t flop on to the floor, banging their heels and screaming their heads off, or shout and roar in a restaurant for ice-cream (it’s more likely to be for the wifi password), but you do get behaviour that can make you believe you are the world’s most boring, stupid and astoundingly inept parent. 

Welcome to the teenage years.

Two of the most famous teenagers in the world found out this week that living out their adolescence in the spotlight only highlights the normality.

Sasha and Malia Obama have been criticised for appearing bored, embarrassed and disinterested at dad’s silly season public event – pardoning the White House turkeys. 

It’s a daft, idiotic tradition, the purpose of which even the president questioned aloud, but there it was: a big fat pair of turkeys sitting on a table which Barack Obama, mortified daughters in tow, had to make a ridiculous speech about.

Sasha crossed her arms. Malia was mostly stony-faced. Neither smiled very much.

classy

Asked to pet one, Sasha declined with a “nah”. So far, so delightfully ordinary.

Cue disdain from Republican party aide Elizabeth Lauten, who told them (in a now-deleted Facebook post) to “show a little class” and dress like they “deserved respect”.

The girls were dressed perfectly nicely– not a tracksuit or pair of Uggs in sight.

They were also classy enough to have turned up to what turned out to be a mortifying display of dad-ness that any Irish teen would have cringed at: terrible jokes, talking directly to them in company and seeming only to stop at breaking into a dad dance to compound the embarrassment factor.

The poor kids. It’s bad enough when nobody knows who he is and you might get away with pretending he’s not actually your dad, but when he’s leader of the free world, well, there’s no escaping it.

Things obviously haven’t improved since the Obama girls came here on their holidays last year. Mum had decided to beat some culture into them and an enforced visit to Trinity College to see the mind-numbing Book of Kells was as appreciated as the midges that ate them alive during an equally boring trip around Glendalough. 

To adults, especially American ones, these things are mildly diverting on a good day. To teenagers they’re activities from hell.

And they weren’t allowed to use their mobile phones – which to most teenagers is akin to robustly removing a limb using a blunt penknife.

Teenagers have a low tolerance threshold for stuff that adults expect them to do – if not a low threshold for adults all round.

They are, however, generally open to bribery, so they understand that instructions to “be polite” and “be good” will be converted into internet and phone time later on. 

diverting

They should never, of course, be expected to go so far as to understand basic demands such as “look interested”, “engage in diverting small talk” or “laugh like you’re enjoying yourself”.  That’s really a step too far.

“Don’t show me up” is as much as you should reasonably expect – and that goes both ways.


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