Forever thankful for mean parents

Published 8:39 am Saturday, March 25, 2023

By Les Ferguson, Jr.

My parents were mean.
I know I’m not the only person who has ever experienced that reality. I’m in safe territory in saying my
parents were mean.

Not so much my mom, though. Her expectations were reasonable. We loaded and unloaded the
dishwasher, vacuumed, and dusted. We folded clothes, set the table, and cleaned up after meals. Those
were simple little household chores that helped maintain the functionality of the home.
It was Mom’s version of Home Economics for us siblings. I’m glad my mom taught those things. My wife is glad she did, too.

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But dad? He was mean. Hateful even. I don’t want to overtly shock your senses — nor is it my intent to
manipulate your sympathies toward our difficult upbringing at the harsh hands of my father.
Dad has heard these complaints before. Even more shocking, he agrees with my assessment and feels
not an ounce of shame or regret. In fact, he would tell you he wishes he had been meaner still!

At this point, maybe a little sympathy would be in order. My childhood was hard and particularly so after
we moved to Mississippi.

How mean was my dad? He didn’t believe in allowances, and I had my first jobs at 13. Notice I said jobs.
I had a paper route, worked the shoeshine booth at a barbershop, and stocked groceries and pumped
gas at a little country convenience store.

Maybe you don’t think that was mean. I concede that a little — it did teach me some things I carry to this
day. But at home? That was when dad became a hard taskmaster.
He literally expected us to sweat outside in the harsh summer sun. We had to cut grass, till the garden,
plant potatoes, pick okra (that stuff itches and should have been considered child abuse), and beans and
everything else we were forced to grow and eat.
We cleaned the carport, learned how to change the oil, cut firewood (always at the bottom of a hill) and
haul it to the house. By the way, when we had the house built, we were forced to use a pick and shovel
to dig the water line.

Can you believe how hard our lives were?
At this point, I expect you are reading this knowing I am being more than a bit facetious. I’m glad that my
parents passed on their values and strengths.

Mom and Dad are in their 80’s now and I am thankful to still have them.
But I am reminded everyday just a little more how important it is to obey the fifth commandment: “Honor
your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is
giving you.” (Exodus 20:12 CSB17)

Smile and have a blessed week!

Les Ferguson Jr., is the minister of Oxford Church of Christ. Write to him at