It’s no easy task raising outdoorsy daughters in the urban jungle that is New York City, but Jenna Bush Hager is up for the challenge.
Jenna, who hails from a long line of nature lovers, writes in Our Great Big Backyard about a girl whose family road trip to the national parks forces her to look up from her cell phone. It’s the second children’s book she’s co-written with her mom, former First Lady Laura Bush.
“Our Great Big Backyard is about finding your beauty and also getting outdoors,” the Today show correspondent, 34, explains. “We go on family walks on Sundays, we go to our local park here in downtown Manhattan and my mom is an urban hiker, too, in Dallas.”
“That’s what George calls me and my friends,” Laura chimes in about her husband, former President George W. Bush. “We’d go to different neighborhoods and hike in different neighborhoods.”
And at the Bush family ranch in rural Crawford, Texas, Mila has made peace with the ickier things that come with nature.
“When we first went there, Mila was like, ‘Buggy! Buggy! No, buggy!’ I was like, ‘Mila, there’s bugs in New York City, and there’s even larger things called rats,’ ” Jenna recalls. “And she was a little trepidatious about being with her shoes off and running in the sand. But after being there for a week, I think she recognized how precious it was.”
Jenna also tries to ensure Poppy and Mila connect with the world around them by limiting her daughters’ screen time — which can be challenging.
“Of course I try to pay attention to Mila and Poppy,” Laura says of visits with her granddaughters, but “now Mila wants my phone because she wants to look at pictures of Bob — “
” — the cat,” Laura and Jenna say in unison.
“It’s fun for kids to look at pictures on a phone. And that’s okay with us — to look at pictures of Bob or Jefe,” Jenna says, referencing her daughters’ nickname for their grandfather George. “So of course, whenever Grammy comes, [Mila] knows that she can sweet talk Grammy and Jefe into anything, which includes looking at the phone.
“But really, in our house, we try to not let her use technology and we try to do the same thing,” she adds. “And actually, it’s parents, mainly, who are setting the example and have the problem. I’m the one who’s maybe looking at work … instead of watching … my daughters be the hilarious girls I know they are.”
— Sandra Sobieraj Westfall and Tierney McAfee