We usually think of Barack Obama as a world leader, a humanitarian, and the country’s first Black president. With all of that going for him, it’s easy to forget that he’s also a thoughtful dad and a recent empty nester.
The former commander in chief opened up in an interview with Al Roker on Today on Wednesday when Roker shared that his youngest child, 19-year-old Nick, was headed off to college soon.
“Well, first tip is you are going to weep copiously when you drop Nick off at college,” Obama told Roker. “But you can’t let him see you cry, so you drop him off and then you quickly leave, and then you cry in the car.”
Barack and Michelle moved Malia, now 23, into her Harvard University dorm back in 2017 — and Barack described it as “open-heart surgery.”
“I was proud that I did not cry in front of her,” he said of the experience in 2017. “But on the way back, the Secret Service was off, looking straight ahead, pretending they weren’t hearing me as I sniffled and blew my nose. It was rough.”
Just a few years later, they had to drop Sasha off at the University of Michigan, and there were more hidden tears — and to be clear, they’re hidden not because you shouldn’t cry in front of your kids, but because you shouldn’t cry in front of your kid’s new roommates.
“There were (tears),” Michelle shared with Today. “We were really good about it. You know, we didn’t want to embarrass her because she had roommates. But then all four of us went to lunch, and it was at the end, after lunch, when we said that final goodbye... that’s when we were like (crying noise).”
Obama also had a stellar tip on how to see your kids once they’ve flown the coop.
“Tip number two is you try to bribe them with, like, nice trips,” Obama said. “‘Hey, we’re going to Hawaii, you guys want to come?’ so that they show up.”
Sure, we can’t all afford a trip to Hawaii to see our kids, but the foundation of the tip’s a good one: bribery.
And then he had maybe what’s the best advice of all for empty nesters — and it’s borrowed from his wife, Michelle.
“Michelle always said, and she’s absolutely right about this, our job as parents is to teach our kids not to need us,” Obama said. “And it hurts, but when you see them as accomplished, confident, kind, thoughtful, responsible people, then you know you’ve done your job.”