Michelle Obama admitted she held off the tears in front of Sasha's new roommates when dropping off her youngest daughter at college in the fall, but eventually the floodgates opened when it was time to say goodbye.
The former first lady spoke to Jenna Bush Hager on TODAY Tuesday in a classroom in rural Vietnam, where she is putting a spotlight on the importance of education for young girls.
She opened up about the moment when she and former President Barack Obama officially became empty-nesters after Sasha, 18, embarked on the next big phase of her life in August.
"There were (tears),'' she said. "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, when we got into a car, me, Barack, and Malia, who was there with us. And then Sasha drove off on her own and said that last goodbye, that's when we were like (crying noise)."
The Obamas have declined to reveal what college Sasha is attending, but The Detroit News reported in August that she was spotted moving into a dorm and attending classes at the University of Michigan. A spokesman for the school would not confirm to the newspaper whether she was officially enrolled at the university.
Sasha's older sister, Malia, 21, is in her third year at Harvard University, where her parents both graduated from law school. The Obamas had a similarly emotional experience when they first dropped her off at college in 2017.
Jenna, who knows exactly what it's like to grow up in the White House, reflected on meeting Sasha and Malia when they were in elementary school and then seeing them all grown up in a family photo Michelle shared on Instagram for Thanksgiving this year.
"So proud," Obama said. "To spend your childhood growing up before the eyes of the world and to come out of that whole situation whole. They're kind, they're compassionate, they're smart, they're everything that I see in the girls that are here in Vietnam and around the world.
"I mean that's one of the reasons I'm so passionate about girls' education because I see myself — I see my daughters — in these girls. They are no different."
While she is excited to see her daughters embark on the next phase of their lives, she admitted there is some sadness that comes with it.
"There was a finality to it because sending your kid off to college is the official start of their next chapter, and I'm excited for them,'' she said. "I'm excited for my girls to grow up and to become independent.
"I feel a little melancholy that they will never be the little ones that sit on your lap and listen to your every word and look at you adoringly. Those days are over."
Now that their daughters are out on their own, Obama has used the opportunity to travel the world to bring awareness to the importance of early education for girls. She and her husband are now off to Malaysia, where they will continue to stress that message.