By: Mary Margaret Reagan-Montiel

My first job at age 10 was picking rocks at a strawberry patch in northern Minnesota. If you’re not familiar with rock picking it’s HARD. Basically, you pick up rocks and move them from the strawberry patch to an isolated corner of the field so that when it’s time to harvest the ripe strawberries, the rocks don't get in the way.

My two brothers and two sisters were my co-workers. We picked the rocks, moved the rocks, and finally, picked the strawberries to sell at roadside fruit stands and local markets. This job was a yearly tradition in our family. The farm was owned by a family friend and he needed the help. The money we made allowed each of us to buy new school clothes and something fun at the end of summer. The deal was that my parents would pay for school supplies (pencils, backpacks, and other items on our school list), and we would have to pay for our own clothes (with a couple of important caveats):

1. We had to save half of what we earned in a savings account out of our local credit union.
2. The other half could be spent on school clothes with one stipulation; we could only buy ONE piece of name-brand clothing. My mother was adamant about this rule!

Earning my own money was hard, but now that I think back on it, the job taught be a lot about myself, my parents, and my family values and traditions. I discovered that I was a "spender"—it was difficult for me to save my hard earned money for something in the future. My mom was a "saver". She planned for things in the future. In her retirement, she is finally enjoying her lifetime of saving. In my family, each of us views money differently, but I would have to guess that the five of us who worked at the strawberry patch still remember the hard work, fun, and the paycheck we received from Farmer Roger.

Often family traditions are thought about as special occasions or celebrations but there are other types of traditions that teach lessons around hard work, the value of a paycheck, and making choices. My lessons inform me in my parenting to this day.