Hood College student and her mom talk about how they drew closer

May 10, 1997

By Teri Johnson

Staff Writer

No matter what happens, Alicha Jones knows her mom, Connie Parker, will be there.

Parker's goal is to live a life that her daughter can admire and respect.

It wasn't always this way for Jones, 20, and Parker, 35.

They say they grew up together, and every step was a struggle.

Parker, who lives in Arlington, Va., and sells real estate, says her daughter started to get rebellious when she was 13.

"I studied and went to work, and there wasn't a lot of time for her," Parker says. "She had a lot of tough criticisms of me."


Jones, a sophomore studying psychology at Hood College in Frederick, Md., says she suffered many behavioral and emotional problems during early adolescence.

"Mom and I went to therapy for three years, and we worked through just about everything," Jones says.

Jones and Parker say the turning point in their relationship was learning the skills they needed to communicate. Instead of becoming angry with each other, they learned to talk about their concerns. They also discovered how to respect and listen to each other, to be less judgmental and to understand each other's problems.

Parker says the hurt feelings weren't easy to overcome.

"It's very painful to find out the truth about what your parenting has been like," she says.

Allies and enemies

Parker and Jones shared their advice April 19 at a Hood College conference called Mother-Daughter Connection.

Mothers and daughters are natural allies and natural enemies, says Dr. Tamara Baker, director of Hood College Counseling Center.

"The mother-daughter connection is the most intense one you possibly have," Baker says.

The old adage "A son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all her life" still proves true, she says.

"Women hold on to their daughters a lot tighter," Baker says.

Some of the toughest times occur between the ages of 18 and 22, when a daughter is becoming an adult and goes to college or to a job, Baker says.

When a woman has a daughter, she often sees an opportunity to do her own life over, says Dr. Denny McGihon, a licensed clinical social worker with Psychotherapy Services LLC in Frederick.

She is more tolerant of her son because she sees him as being different, says McGihon, who presented the Hood conference.

"She sees her daughter as being just like her," McGihon says.

He says it's painful for a girl not to get her mother's approval.

"It's hard for a little girl to maintain a connection with her mother and feel like she can be a separate person," McGihon says.

`Me time'

Sometimes a daughter just wants her mother to listen, not to offer advice or talk about how she handled a similar situation in the past, Jones says.

She calls this "me time," and she says it takes away from what the daughter is saying if the mother starts talking about her own experiences.

"I say `Mom, I just want you to listen,' and that takes the pressure off," Jones says.

A mother has to allow her daughter to live her own life, Parker says.

"You guide her when you can, and you pray she'll be OK," Parker says.

Parker says the years between 14 and 22 are difficult for a young woman, who faces pressures from a number of sources - including men, studies and the temptation to use drugs and alcohol. Parker says she used to snoop through her daughter's things to see if she was lying.

Both felt freedom when Parker stopped being so involved in the life of her only child.

"It's a matter of control," she says. "I don't need to know all the details."

Jones says the process helped her tremendously.

"It makes me feel like she trusts me more, and that creates respect and honesty," she says.

Parker says she is delighted with the way her daughter has turned out.

Jones wants to be a psychologist at a residential facility for teenage girls. She is a peer counselor at Hood College, and although she mainly hears about problems with boyfriends and homework, she says the mother-daughter relationship often is on people's minds.

"Everyone I know lies to their mother," she says. "They don't want to let them down."

Because there is a big need for peer counseling on weekends, Jones doesn't get home to see her mother and her stepfather, Jesse Parker, as often as she would like. Mother and daughter still maintain close contact, talking on the telephone every other day.

Her father, Larry Jones, lives in New Britain, Conn., and also has played an active role in her life.

Jones says her relationship with her mother is strong because of the things they have faced together.

She says she can't imagine having a baby at age 15, and she realizes how many sacrifices Parker made as a single mother.

"She did the best she could, and she's been a wonderful role model," she says. "She's not only my mom, she's my best friend."

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