"Nothing beats watching your children become smarter and cooler than you are," President Obama says of daughters Malia and Sasha

Credit: Getty

He may be the leader of the free world but when it comes to his family, President Obama says he’s third in the chain of command – with his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, ranking No. 1 and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, “constantly wrestling for second place.”

“I rank ahead of the dogs,” Obama jokes.

Opening up about his “amazing” daughters in his cover story for GQ’s 20th Anniversary Men of the Year issue, the president gushes, “They’re smart, they’re funny. They take after their mom, and Michelle’s done a great job with them.”

Of course, at 17 (Malia) and 14 (Sasha), they’ve still got some growing up to do.

“You get these teenage moments – they love you, but what I think really affects you most is they just don’t have time for you,” he explains. “It’s not an active disdain for you. It’s just their calendars start filling up and they’ve got all these friends who are much more interesting.”

[IMAGE “1” “” “std” ]

And watching his daughters communicate with their bevy of buddies is pretty interesting for Obama.

“Both are complete ninjas on the phone, right?” he says. “And they can do things that I don’t even understand – they’re doing it in two seconds. But I even see a difference between Malia, who’s 17, and Sasha, who’s 14. There’s almost a mini-generational gap in terms of Sasha being so connected seamlessly to this smartphone in a way that Malia, who was already a little bit older when it really started to take, is not.”

“Her social life is so connected to that,” he adds of Sasha.

But Obama says he understands that he’s not in his daughters’ inner social circles at the moment.

“You just have to let go, you have to acknowledge that if you say to them, ‘Hey, you want to go watch this movie?’ or ‘Hey, you want to go take a swim at the pool?’ [they’ll say], ‘No, sorry, Daddy. I love you, though. See you tomorrow, ’cause I’m spending the night at somebody s house.’ The golden age is between, say, 6, 7, and 12, and they’re your buddies and they just want to hang out. And after that, they will love you, but they don’t have that much time for you.”

“And my understanding is, based on friends of mine who have older kids, is that with a little bit of luck, as long as you’re not so completely annoying during these teenage years, they’ll come back to you around 23, 24, and actually want to hang out with you. But that stretch is painful. The compensation you get for the fact that they don’t have time for you is: Nothing beats watching your children become smarter and cooler than you are. And you suddenly will hear them say something or make a joke or have an insight and you go, ‘Wow. I didn’t think of that.’ ”

One thing he’s not looking forward to? The day his teenage daughters start dating.

Obama says no one has come to the White House to pick Malia up for a date just yet but, “I’ve seen some folks glancing at her in ways that made me not happy.”

Do you tell the Secret Service to “just take out that guy over there,” asked interviewer Bill Simmons.

“Just keep an eye on him,” the president says.