Jenna Bush Hager Tells Story Behind Heartbreaking Letter from Daughter Mila at Camp
Jenna Bush Hager is shedding light on daughter Margaret "Mila" Laura's summer camp experience, which went from heartbreaking homesickness to so much fun that she forgot to pen home for a few weeks.
Back in July, the Today co-host said on air that she received the "saddest" letter from her 8-year-old daughter (who was attending summer camp in Texas) that "broke my heart in a million pieces." Bush Hager read the heart-wrenching letter on the broadcast, with the emotional note going viral afterward.
"Dear Mom and Dad, I miss you. I wish I could be with you," she read at the time. "P.S. Daddy, how much longer till you pick me up? I miss you too much. I need to stop crying. So goodbye. I miss you terribly, Mom and Dad."
Bush Hager — who also shares daughter Poppy Louise, 6, and son Henry "Hal" Harold, 2, with husband Henry Hager — tells PEOPLE that eventually, however, Mila got acclimated and came to "love" her camp experience.
"It broke both of our hearts, but I didn't think that ... I just put it out there. People would stop me on the street and be like, 'When are you going to get Mila?' I'm like, 'I was just reading a letter!' Then, the camp called, they felt really bad," she said in a conversation with PEOPLE ahead of Tuesday's George H.W. Bush Points of Light Awards. "They were like, 'Don't worry, she's happy.' I was like, 'No, it's all okay.' "
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"We got one letter on the day that said, 'Dear Daddy, please come and get me,' which broke Henry's heart and he, for a minute, was like, 'Should we go and get her?' I was like, no," Bush Hager continues. "I'm not kidding, we received the second letter in a three-week period on the day that Henry went to go get her that was like, 'Dear Mom and Dad, sorry I haven't written. I've been having so much fun.' That's how life goes."
The mom of three explains that Mila "was really homesick."
"She went to camp in Texas; she's from New York City and it's like 97 degrees outside on a lake in Texas, so there might've been some slight culture shock that I don't really appreciate because I went to that camp but I was from Texas and was used to the summers," she tells PEOPLE.
"She said later, and this is kind of heartbreaking — again, I shouldn't say this because I'm going to get backlash ... but she was like, 'When people were homesick, all the Houston girls came together and were sad, and all the Dallas girls went together and were sad, and all the Austin girls felt sad. When I was sad, I was just sad all by myself.' "
"It's kind of a good lesson, though, since we're just coming out of a pandemic. You've got to learn how to be sad by yourself, so it's all okay," says Bush Hager.
Reflecting on interest in the letter after she read it aloud on Today beside co-host Hoda Kotb, Bush Hager says, "We were concerned, which is why I said it out loud. But the whole country didn't need to be concerned! It's all okay."
Bush Hager, Barbara Bush, Lauren Bush Lauren and Wendy Stapleton are serving as co-chairs of the third annual George H.W. Bush Points of Light Award on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m.
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