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Raising Up Girls

From momma to best friend

Connie Rockco, center, is surrounded by her daughters at the family home in Biloxi: Tracie Strayham Jaclyn Rockco Ducote and Shelley Rockco Scarborough.

“When I was very young, I wanted four children. After my first daughter was born, I decided two children were sufficient,” says Connie Rockco. “Shelley was 3 when Jaclyn was born. I thought our family was complete, however God had another plan. When Jaclyn was 6 months old, I found out I was pregnant again, and 14 months later Tracie was born. God had blessed us with another beautiful daughter. My husband (Robert) wanted a boy but prayed to be surrounded by beautiful women. Be careful what you pray for, right?”

So begun the Rockcos’ adventure of raising up three daughters as strong, independent and brave women — just like their momma.

For sure the girls have had a tough act to follow. Rockco, Harrison County District 5 supervisor, is known for her independence and outspokenness. No one is surprised when she kicks down another gender barrier. Most recently, she became the first woman in 108 years to be elected from the floor as president of Mississippi Association of Supervisors.

At the time, MAS had only eight female supervisors out of 410. She also became the first woman to serve on the Legislative Committee of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors; first Republican woman elected to and first female president of the Harrison County Board of Supervisors; and first Republican to serve two terms as president of the Council of Governments — and that just gets the list of “firsts” started.

So what was it like for her daughters growing up in her shadow, and how has such a powerful parental figure impacted them? Perhaps a much more interesting question is, how have they impacted their mother? “They have taught me so many things throughout the years it’s hard to know where to start,” Connie says. “They taught me how to let go so they might fly. I learned to let them fall and get up on their own. My girls have taught me to see the beauty and talent in everyone. My daughters, now women, have shown me the rewards of love and dedication. They have taught me that I don’t know everything and my way is not always the right way. Shelley, Jaclyn and Tracie have taught me forgiveness, for they understand that I am not perfect and that parenting is not a blessing that comes with instructions. That being said, they forgave me!”

The fearsome foursome doesn’t get together as often as Connie would like, but when they do they have a tendency to be “bossy and gang up on me,” Connie shares. Wonder who they learned that from?

Joking aside, all three daughters seem to have a great appreciation for their mother.

“My mom taught me that honesty is always the best policy, and I have passed that on to my children as well. She also taught us to laugh and have fun and that family is extremely important,” says Shelley, the oldest. Shelley is raising two children of her own now, daughter Arley,14 and son Orrin, 10.

Middle child Jaclyn says, “She taught me the importance of loving discipline. Too many kids are growing up not knowing right from wrong. We grew up knowing the difference and the consequences that go along with it and are better people for it. We were corrected when wrong, praised when right and always knew that we were loved.” These are sure to be good lessons for Jaclyn’s two daughters, Sonora, 8, and Bailyn, 4.

Youngest-child Tracie, who is raising a 3- and 4-year-old, is still working on teaching her two to “put on some clothes.” Eventually she expects to teach them to, “Pray, do not judge, treat others as you would like to be treated, mind your manners, mind your business, remember that there are people less fortunate — so be giving, remember that you never know what kind of a day a person is having; be kind, create high self-esteem in all children — because they are worth it.” That’s just what her mother taught her.

Though the Rockcos raised their girls with a firm hand, they all now say they felt “special” growing up, and Connie is for sure proud of the results. “They are all loving, compassionate, honest, kind and intelligent mothers, wives, professionals, friends and daughters. Another great thing is they are all gainfully employed,” she says.

“All three of our girls paid their way through college. Shelley, the oldest, is an electrical engineer, PE with a master’s degree in administration; Jaclyn has a BS degree in business and a BS in nursing; Tracie has a degree in psychology, and is working on her masters while raising two daughters and running a business. I am so very proud of them, and I know I am being redundant but words fall short in description of admiration for these young women.”

Connie hadn’t ventured yet into politics when the girls were young. They “didn’t have to deal with the issues young kids do when they have a political figure as a parent,” Jaclyn notes. “She was just Mom. Working and doing her best to be EVERYWHERE we were (and that’s times 3). Everyone did seem to know her then though even with her not being political. She was very accomplished with owning her own business her medical background starting recycling and working at the seafood industry museum.”

Shelley adds it was sometimes tough “being ‘Robert and Connie’s daughter.’ I think we all go through a little bit of that as we are trying to grow and find our own identity.” But now she calls her mother and her sisters her “best friends.”

With such a strong maternal figure in their lives, its not surprising that Connie’s daughters all can say they see their mother in themselves. “When I’m dancing around the house or singing in the car with my children. It’s always funny when I say something to one of my children and then realize how much I sound like my momma. One of the things I always try to do is tuck my children in at night. My daughter is 14, and I still go in and kiss her goodnight and talk with her before bed. I remember my mom doing that with me. At the same time, I have to blaze my own trail. She taught me to be independent and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

And so, the mother’s legacy lives on for another generation in her daughters.

(Your mother) is your guiding light when you are young and your best singing partner on a road trip to Florida when you’re older.” Tracie Strayham