Welcome to So mini waysYahoo Life education Series about the joys and challenges of raising children.
A big part of parenting is setting boundaries and rules for your children. As Jenna Bush Hager found out, it also means trying—usually in vain—to get grandparents to stick to those boundaries and rules as well.
“If they’re on vacation with my parents, when they get up, they sneak into their rooms at 5 a.m. and they can watch whatever they want on my parents’ iPads,” he said Today with Hoda & Jenna The co-host tells Yahoo Life when asked how her parents, former President George W. Bush and former FLOTUS Laura Bush, take care of their three children. “And I say, ‘That’s not a rule here!’ But also, when my mom was about two months old, my mom was feeding our kids ice cream. And I was like, ‘You’re not going to have to change that diaper, you know?'”
Grandparents aside, the TV personality and her husband Henry Hager are otherwise “very strict about technology” when it comes to their children, 9-year-old Mila, 7-year-old Poppy and 3-year-old Hal. Using devices for “learning purposes” – such as homework or to read a downloadable story like the free e-book for kids, The wonderful world of blueshe just worked on with Dawn – is fine, but anything else is off-limits.
“They won’t have social media or their own phones until eighth grade,” Hager says, noting that co-host Hoda Kotb has similar sentiments on the subject. “I think technology can be amazing for learning and growing, but I also want to keep my kids as young as possible for as long as possible.”
Hager can be stubborn with technology, but the former first daughter says she’s “also kind of an awkward mom who likes to use humor to make situations a little bit cooler.” That could mean throwing a dance party for her kids, or bonding over a book (from the oldest to the youngest, who are their kids’ current favorites Harry Potter, The Story of Despereaux and her own The wonderful world of blue. A former reading teacher and the daughter of a librarian — not to mention former First Lady Barbara Bush’s granddaughter, who Hager says had a pillow that read “Reading is sexy” on her couch — the founder of the Read With Jenna book club sees considers it extremely important to exemplify the love of literacy.
“My husband and I read every night,” says Hager, noting that since her book club started, “everything I do is read.” “So that’s what my kids see — they see us reading in bed, and that’s why they want to do that, too.”
Given her love of reading, it pains her to see a surge in efforts to ban books in the United States.
“I don’t like it. I mean, this is America,” she says. “I feel like banning books isn’t what I’m for at all. I think teachers and librarians are able to recommend appropriate age-appropriate books for children. They’re so good at it, and we have the best librarians in this country—and I’m not just saying that because of my mother [was a librarian]. … [As a former teacher] that’s what you’re armed for. You’re armed to say, “Oh my god, do you love reading about this? This is the perfect book for you.’ And yes, I’m not one to ban books.”
When it comes to her own writing, Hager says her kids are handy at gauging when their story is on track; “If Hal Hager, 3 years old, likes that, then that’s a good test subject,” she jokes. The wonderful world of blue which she also reads as an audio book, is a very special book project with its message about the importance of protecting species. Dawn is releasing the book this month to celebrate its 50th anniversary and longstanding partnerships with International Bird Rescue and The Marine Mammal Center.
“I am very excited to be collaborating with Dawn to publish this book that is appropriate for any child,” says Hager. “The wonderful world of blue is all about how kids like my kids can be wildlife superheroes. In a world where we know we need to stand up and do something for our beautiful planet, I want children to know through this book that they can be heroes. Kids can do amazing things.”
As someone who grew up in national parks with her family and has seen Laura Bush’s passion for bird watching, Hager wants her own children to feel “empowered” with tips and tools to enjoy and protect the great outdoors. She also credits her upbringing with nurturing the relationships between her children.
“I think having a twin was everything,” says Hager, whose fraternal twin sister, Barbara Bush Coyne, gave birth to their first child last year. “We don’t know the world without each other. We know how important that shared history was and having a partner to hold hands with [experienced] kinda extraordinarily strange things as little kids. It makes me realize what a precious gift brotherhood is. You know, I tell my kids all the time that having a sister or brother is the best gift I could ever give them. Sometimes they see it and sometimes they don’t. … Again, modeling is the most important thing we can do as parents, and they see how close Barbara and I are. So I just hope that we pass on that legacy of loving your sisters and your siblings to her.”
Husband Henry Hager, whom she married in 2008, is currently the author’s greatest life partner. Recalling the meaning of “mothers [needing] Dads to be equal partners,” Hager calls her spouse a “hands-on” parent who has helped her weather the chaos of filming a morning show from home amid the pandemic.
“My husband is amazing,” she says. “[During the pandemic] We both worked from home. i did that Today’s show from my kitchen. We had no child care and three children; our youngest was 6 months. And he said to his boss, “Jenna has to do the show. I’ll take my kids to Zoom school and then I’ll start my day. And I just think that says everything about him.”
Hager is now back in the studio. When she works, she relies on the help of others to get the kids out the door.
“I juggle both work and parenting and I think you know – I hope you would know – that they make up most of my day and most of my life, but I also have a job that I love.” , she says. “I also want them to know that you can do both. It doesn’t always look perfect or even good, but I want them to know that you can have a career that is fulfilling and you can also love the kids that you have. So, yeah, I’m not with them in the mornings, but our evenings are pretty cool.”
So cool, in fact, that Hager has trouble naming a specific parenting challenge that’s stressing her out at the moment. Her “friendly and empathetic” children are currently in a “good phase”.
“I should knock on wood because I know that’s about to change,” she adds. “Everyone is potty trained, everyone sleeps through the night.
—Video produced by Olivia Schneider.
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