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Dixie Diva
Rotten parents
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One day I asked a friend how her son was doing in college. She smiled then began a discourse on how he was enjoying his field of study and what he could do with his degree when he graduated.

Then she sighed deeply. “I’ve got to find him an internship for this summer.”

It was the next morning, in truth, before it occurred to me what rotten parents I had. Neither of them ever thought once, let alone twice, about finding an internship for me. They threw me out to wolves and made me find one for myself.

Boy, what rotten parents.

Back in those days, college students didn’t get paid for interning. In fact, I’m a bit surprised now that we didn’t have to pay for the privilege. After all, we were working earnestly at learning our craft and getting class credit for it. Since my rotten parents refused to do the legwork, I had to screw up the nerve, pick up the phone and call the newspaper to ask for a job. Now, newspaper folks are not stupid. Never have been. So the offer of a free worker was somewhat easily snapped up but — get this — there was a line of students willing to work for free. Go figure. It’s hard to get some kids to work for money these days; imagine if they had to work free.

Nonetheless, I got the “job” and was immediately put to work, inputting copy into the system. Eventually, I got so good at typing that I was moved up to occasionally writing birth announcements and obituaries. When I complained to Mama and Daddy that school work, two part-time jobs that did pay and the internship were wearing me out, I got no sympathy.

 “It’s better than havin’ to work out in the fields for a livin’. You’re in air-conditioning. Imagine if you had to hoe or pick cotton under the hot sun. Be glad for what you’ve got.”

Boy, what rotten parents.

Mama sewed in the spare bedroom of our house, earning 25 dollars for a dress that would take two days to make, and used practically every dollar of it to send me to college. Daddy saw to it that I had a car, lunch money and gas to get me to and fro. When I talked wistfully of a new dress I wanted or a wrist watch, both were firm. “Get a job and buy it yourself.”

Boy, what rotten parents.

Because of them, I had to learn the value of earning money and accumulating enough to buy what I wanted. I had to personally experience the trauma of standing on my feet — in heels — in retail for eight long hours at a time. I had to learn early to stand on my own two feet, both literally and figuratively.

As college graduation approached, both stood in unity as they echoed each other, “Get a job. It’s time to earn your own way. We saw to it that you got a good education, now use it.”

Boy, what rotten parents.

To think that they actually expected me to pay for my expenses at the age of twenty two is unfathomable. Child abuse, really. They did other terrible things, too. As long as I lived in their house, I had to go to church on Sunday. No excuses. And when I made a mistake because of my own youthful misjudgment (and sometimes arrogance), I had to clean up by own mess.

 “So, you’ll learn and never do it again,” Daddy said.

Boy, what rotten parents.

And because I had such rotten parents, I learned the value of hard work, the importance of a dollar saved, the comfort of prayer in times of need and wisdom that cannot be bought but must be learned as only life can teach.

Boy, I’m glad I had such rotten parents.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of the forthcoming There’s A Better Day A-Comin’. Visit to sign up for her weekly newsletter.