Life with Grandparents George W. and Laura Bush as He Launches New Painting Project

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Virginia Chamlee
·3 min read
Life with Grandparents George W. and Laura Bush as He Launches New Painting Project
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

George and Laura Bush are looking forward to spending more time with their grandchildren as cases of COVID-19 continue to dwindle — and the former president admits he might even spoil them with candy.

Speaking with PEOPLE for this week's issue, upon the release of his new book of paintings, Bush, 74, said the couple plans to see daughter Jenna Bush Hager's children in May, noting that "the problem with COVID is that there's not a lot of travel back and forth."

When asked whether he or his wife is known to indulge the grandkids, Bush admitted: "I probably do ... Well, I give them, for example, 'Pappy, can I have a piece of candy?' I said, 'Oh, sure.' "

In a 2017 interview, both Bushes echoed that, with the former first lady telling PEOPLE her husband is a "spoiling grandfather."

"You want to play a video game, I'm the guy," he said at the time.

And if "you want to eat ice cream?" Mrs. Bush nudged.

"I'm the guy," replied President Bush, who added that his grandkids call him "El Jefe" (the boss). "I'm probably undermining every lesson that Jenna and Henry are trying to teach little Mila but, you know, what the heck?"

Hager, 39, and husband Henry Hager have three children: son Henry "Hal" Harold, 2, and daughters Poppy Louise, 6, and 8-year-old Margaret "Mila" Laura.

The Bushes' other daughter, Barbara Pierce Bush, married Craig Coyne in 2018.

• For more on George W. Bush's new painting project and his life now, subscribe to PEOPLE or pick up this week's issue.

C.A .Smith Photography The Bush family in July 2020 in Kennebunkport, Maine

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Barbara, who had been set to graduate with a master's degree from Harvard University in May, wound up converting to online classes and relocating from Boston to her parents' ranch in Crawford, Texas, as shutdowns began last year.

"I don't think that that was something Craig anticipated when he married me, moving in with his parents-in-law for five months," Barbara, 38, previously told PEOPLE.

Over time, Jenna's family joined for an extended lockdown at the ranch, too, with the former president telling PEOPLE this week he was "roped into a few games" of Rummikub with Barbara and Henry — even though he'd prefer to stream a TV show. (The whole clan was photographed together last July at the family's Maine property.)

"Laura [and I] are mainly streamers ... I'm constantly searching for interesting shows to watch," Bush says. "We've probably seen almost every British detective series there is."

RELATED: Laura Bush Remembers the First Time She Met George and When He Proposed

Since leaving the White House and moving back to Texas in 2009, President Bush has largely stayed out of politics, though he has used his hobby — painting — to send subtle messages about his views on where the country's priorities should be.

But he also uses his art to get closer to his family, telling PEOPLE that he painted portraits of both his daughters and his wife.

"The Laura portrait was a bust," Bush says. "And I think Barbara is pretty good, but it took her to sit down and tell me what she thought was wrong with it, and then I corrected it."

"I've been very sensitive, because I tend to be a pretty sloppy painter and I tend to apply a lot of paint," he acknowledges, "and if you do that on a face that's a beautiful face, it could disrupt the beauty. And so I was concerned about it."

He adds that his portrait of Mrs. Bush was "destroyed," though the portrait of Jenna is upstairs in his art studio.

Earlier this month, he released his second book of paintings, Out of Many, One, which highlights "the inspiring journeys of America's immigrants and the contributions they make to the life and prosperity of our nation," according to a news release.

The portraits are also on view at an exhibition at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.