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Obama says poor relatives keep his kids grounded

  • Written by Kevin Liptak/CNN
  • Published in News

2obamakids-600Their home has its own bowling alley, movie theatre and chef.

But while living in the White House could leave Sasha and Malia Obama with a distorted sense of how Americans live, their father says he's always conveying to his daughters how abnormal their situation really is.

"We are constantly reminding Malia and Sasha of the slightly unreal environment that they're in, and that that's not the norm and they shouldn't expect to be the norm," President Barack Obama said in an interview for the Amazon Kindle store.

Having relatives who don't live like the commander-in-chief – and even struggle to get by – has kept his children grounded, Obama said.

"One of the advantages we have is that we still have family members who are not only middle class, but we've got some family members who are poor," he told Amazon editor David Blum. "Malia and Sasha have cousins who know what it's like to struggle and know what it's like to have to scrape by. They know that those kids are just as worthy as they are, they just haven't had as much luck."

Obama, who spoke at an Amazon.com distribution plant in Tennessee Tuesday, said that even kids who don't grow up in the White House have a distorted sense of wealth – a cultural shift, he said, from when he was young.

"If you look back on your childhood, or if I talk to my friends, all of us have that same impression when we go back home and we realize that the place where we were living was pretty small," he said. "These days people would say, 'How did you live in a place that small?' Well it didn't feel that small at the time. It was secure. It was stable."

A constant barrage of made-for-television wealth has changed what kids regard as normal lives, Obama said, so that traditional benchmarks of success – a home, job, education, health care, and retirement – are no longer deemed sufficient.

"There was not that window into the lifestyles of the rich and famous," he said. "Kids weren't monitoring every day what Kim Kardashian was wearing, or where Kanye West was going on vacation, and thinking that somehow that was the mark of success."

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