When my first child was born, my son, I was rendered speechless by the miracle that had transpired. It took me a year or so just to relearn the world from the perspective of motherhood. When my second child was born, a girl, I was shocked by her beauty. Even in the hospital I lay there starting at her. She was, and still is, sweetness incarnate. When I met my third child, also a girl, my first thought was, Wow, this girl is one tough cookie. She was smart and funny right from the start. Even my husband’s first impression of her as a seven-pound scrawny little fuzzling was one of strength.

The nature that a baby has when it’s born is the nature that it will carry through lifeIt seems hard to imagine that an infant could give you the feeling that she is loving you and taking care of you more than you are for her, but that was the energy that she exuded. I would bring her to work with me, and my students would wait at the door, and fight over the right to hold her first. I couldn’t let my boss hold my baby when I wanted to have a serious conversation with her, because her brain would turn to mush. In one such spaced-out mushy moment my boss said, “I don’t know what it is about your baby, but she gives me the feeling that she really cares about me. That she is giving in her soul.”

By this time I had enough experience of motherhood to realize that children are born very much themselves. Yes, their personalities are shaped a little bit as they grow, and there is something to be said for nurture, but the nature that a baby has when it’s born is the nature that it will carry through life.

Now that baby, Leah, is almost three. Last night over a snack she was telling me which girls in her preschool hit. “Right, Mommy, it’s not okay to hit?”

“Right, Leah, what do we do if we are angry?” I was looking for an answer along the lines of using our words . . .

“We eat cornflakes!” she pronounced. I laughed aloud. She was right. I had just had an unpleasant encounter with somebody, right after which I discovered that I was hungry and headed for the kitchen. Leah had seen right through me.

She then told me that her birthday is coming soon, and she wants pasta and a balloon. “But we need also a plate, because if you put the pasta in the balloon it will get dirty.”

“That’s right, Leah,” I laughed and squeezed her tight.

I was trying to describe her personality to someone who knows me well but never met my kids. “She’s quirky, smart and unusual. Definitely strong-willed and independent. Creative. Dark hair, sweet expressive brown eyes, yummy, smushy, round and soft. As tough as she is, she is also very sensitive and understanding to others.”

“Funny,” she said, “sounds like she’s the most like you of all of your kids.”

“I love all of my kids, but yes, Leah is the most like me.”

“But when you describe yourself you use different words. She’s quirky, but yourself you call strange, weird. You say that she is strong-willed and independent. Yourself you call stubborn. Her creativity you praise, but yours you say gets in the way of getting things done. Honey, you are judging by a double standard.”

Could I make room in my love for someone so similar to myself, for myself as well?Food for thought. I continued thinking about what she had said. Leah’s round little belly was soft and cute. Why couldn’t mine be also? Did I have to see my self as touchy and fat? Could I make room in my love for someone so similar to myself, for myself as well?

My son got a new pair of shoes yesterday. They are the same size as mine and my husband’s. His Torah learning has far surpassed mine already a while back. He is quickly becoming a young man. He comes home and tells me what he learned about the Parshah with joy and enthusiasm. I think back to what sort of thing I got excited about at his age. I look back at him with pride. In my next conversation with my father I tell him about my son’s learning. He says that he can see me smiling ten thousand miles away.

My first daughter, sweetness incarnate, joined me in my prayers this morning. I asked her what she wanted to pray for. She asked G‑d for babies for her two aunts. Then she asked G‑d to help her and her sister to do a lot of good deeds, mitzvahs.

As I watch them grow, I am getting older too. But if you ask me what I want to be when I grow up, the answer is clear. I want to be like my kids.