Do you ever stop and catch yourself? Maybe it was the tone of your voice, the expression that you used, the words that you said. You stop yourself mid-sentence and gasp, “I sound exactly like my mother. I’m turning into my mother!”

The other day I had one of those moments, but it was in the reverse. I overheard my children talking. One had received a goody bag of treats from a birthday party. The other asked, “Can I have some?” Then she asked again. The first one, the owner of the treats, told her, “I don’t want you to ask me again. I told you that I will give you some, but if you ask me again, then I won’t.”

Ouch, my child sounded just like his motherOuch, my child sounded just like his mother. Oh no. What have I done?

Just the week before this incident occurred, I worried and worried. Why do my children always ask me for everything all the time? “Mommy, buy me this. Mommy, can I have that? Mommy, I want. Mommy, give me.” It’s never-ending. At least it feels like the requests are never-ending, and I worry that my children are over-demanding.

I don’t remember being so demanding to my parents. I wonder if they will ever be “happy with their lot”? Maybe all of their requests are an indication that they feel deprived? Am I depriving them? But they have so much, too much. Maybe they are spoiled? I’m told that it’s the generation, a generation of never being satisfied, of always wanting more.

I had to really think about this.

Are my children so wrong to ask? Maybe it’s me who is wrong by becoming angry that they ask so much? Am I teaching my child that it’s not okay to want, that’s it’s not acceptable to ask? Is that the message that I want to give to them?

All of a sudden it hit me. If my child can’t ask me, his mother, for things, then whom should he ask? He sees that I feed him, bathe him, and clothe him. I tuck him in at night and buy him toys. I play with him and teach him things. Whom else should he turn to if not me—a stranger? His asking me is his way of telling me that he believes in me, of connecting to me.

In Hebrew the word for giving is natan, spelled with the letters נ, ת, נ. The first letter and the last are the same, indicating that the one who gives actually receives and vice versa; therefore, by receiving we also give. The process of giving and receiving is like the cardiovascular system of the body. “Giving” oxygenated blood pumps into the body from the heart. The blood circulates through the body and “receives” carbon dioxide. This “receiving” blood then goes to the lungs, becomes oxygenated, and at last returns back to the heart as “giving” blood once again. The cycle continues, endlessly. If it stops, the body collapses.

From the very first moment that I conceived, I started to give. Whether it was my strength, my sleep, my body, I was giving—and, thank G‑d, I haven’t stopped. It’s the single most important act that bonds me to my child. I also haven’t stopped receiving, whether it’s happiness, joy or love. The heart-melting way my baby looks up at me when I nurse—there is no gift sweeter than this. I get and I get and I get, and through this I have an unbreakable bond with my children. When they are small babies it’s easier to see this, but for some reason, as they grow, the vision becomes blurred.

From the very first moment that I conceived, I started to giveI realize that not only is it not too much to ask, but my child has a right to ask, and I also have a right: I have a right to say no, pleasantly, compassionately and confidently. Everything seemed to clear up in my head. I don’t feel anger or ingratitude; I just say no when I don’t want to (or feel that I should) give.

But even when I say no, I continue to give. If I’m asked for an object or to do an activity that I don’t want to give or permit, I will still say no, but at the same time will give—a warm smile, a hug, and try to find an alternative. You can never spoil by giving too much love. So, “let him ask and want,” I tell myself. It gives me the opportunity to give, and only by giving can we grow close.