The Obama family spent eight years in the White House—which means former first daughters Sasha and Malia went from adorable little girls to young women with the world watching. And now, former first lady Michelle Obama is opening up about how she and her husband tried to protect their daughters during that time, while also giving them as much normalcy as possible.

“It was very much, keeping them in their reality,” she added. “Making sure we went to the parent teacher conferences, and that we went to the games and that we were sitting on the sidelines with them.” She also noted that the girls had sleepovers, but for safety reasons it always had to be at the White House (and the girls weren’t always thrilled about it). “Their view was, ‘I don’t want to be here, I’m here all the time. I want to go to X’s house.”

Obama acknowledged the sacrifices that had to be made in her children’s most formative years.

Now 20 and 17, respectively, Obama told O’Brien that she’s in awe of Malia and Sasha for their “poise” and “grace”—as well as the resilience they developed at a young age. We can’t begin to imagine what it is like to grow up under the intense glare of the national spotlight, but it sounds as if both former first kids are thriving. And we can’t wait to see all the amazing things they do next as they grow into adulthood.