Our class met at a temple and the teacher was warm and welcoming to the fifteen of us around the table. The teacher had us introduce ourselves and our families, and answer a question to break the ice: what was our most favorite and least favorite part of the day? Some parents loved ending the day snuggling with their kids or reading to them in bed, some fathers in particular said they loved picking their kids up from preschool. But for least favorite, there were two biggies: making lunches, and getting kids to brush their teeth before bed. This last one got the whole group talking, and laughing! We all ended up sharing tips about how to keep kids on task long enough for them to get any benefit (the best idea I came away with was to have the kids dance to music they liked while brushing--but the music has to last exactly as long they need to brush!).
The composition of the group was also a pleasant surprise. It was more diverse than I anticipated; it included an African-American woman married to a Jewish guy, an Indian-American man married to a Jewish woman, and a lesbian Jewish mom. As people talked it became clear that we had much in common: we were looking to get better at parenting, and to learn things about Judaism that could help us raise more thoughtful kids. One of the participants, whose partner was not Jewish, said she wanted to learn more about Judaism in order to discover what was moving and deep about her own tradition and then pass that on to her daughter. She worried that her daughter would know otherwise only her partner's culture. It felt to me that she also wanted to make sure that her daughter really knew her, really knew who her mother was.
It was inspiring, and educational, warm and friendly. And best of all, it was much more fun than I had thought. If you're raising a Jewish child, you should put this class on your “to do” list.