Kindergarten Blues

Our Miss A is typically a joy (with the occasional difficult moment or two). Last year her preschool teacher called her a “sprite.” She flits around, happy as can be and is typically always singing, dancing or doing gymnastics. She’s the type of person that you want around when you’re having a bad day because inevitably she’ll lift you up. She exudes warmth and happiness….that is until these last few weeks. The kindergarten blues have officially kicked in – full force.

Now, it’s not what you might think. She loves school. She’s making friends, loving her lessons. She’s even practicing reading and writing almost constantly all of her own volition. So it’s not school per say, but rather the amount of time schooling consumes. She’s gone from having most of her day to play, mornings to sleep-in, and plenty of mom and dad’s attention – particularly when Mr.N was at school – to an entirely different way of life. It’s the school way of life. Mr. N went through it too. It was inevitable. It’s one of the growing-up transitions I like the least.

The difficult part about this transition is age. She’s only five. She can’t quite put into words what she’s feeling all the time – and most of the time it’s hard to recognize. As an adult I can see that her world has drastically changed, not to mention the rigors of sitting in a classroom all day, and the fast pace at which they have to learn. It’s a lot – a big change – even if you love everything about school. So if it’s difficult to find words and understand the magnitude of the change in your life, you can imagine that the result is not pretty. Let’s just say we’re having many more of the “up-turned plate” kind of moments, epic meltdowns and increasing sibling rivalry. The one good thing – she’s our second child, so I know it’s a phase. No need to pull out the “what-am-I-doing-wrong” and “what-happened-to-my-sweet-baby” books this time around. She’ll come back to us….now it’s just our turn to lift her up (and of course provide a bit of boundaries lest we create a monster).

So for our next Indian cooking adventure, some comfort was in order. Until this recipe, I’ve not had much experience with curries and I hadn’t even been to an Indian restaurant (that has since changed!). What I did know, was that curries are considered one of the ultimate comfort foods, making this was a no-brainer. I also wanted a way to tie in some flavors of the season, so for this dish we went with a Pumpkin Lentil Curry. lentil curry

We started by heating the oil, onions, garlic and ginger in a pot along with a bonanza of spices for the curry. For the curry powder we mixed turmeric, cayenne, cumin, coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon, salt and pepper. We let everything cook for about 4 to 5 minutes and splashed a bit of water in the mix to keep it from sticking to the pan. pumpkin curry mix

Next it was time to toss in the lentils. We went with the green variety. green lentils

Then we added the pumpkin puree and water. We brought the mixture up to a boil and then reduced to a simmer for about 35 minutes (until the water had absorbed and the lentils were tender). lentil curry

Finally, we removed the bay leaves and tossed in some chopped apples. We let the apples cook in the curry for about five minutes, then we added a bit of lemon juice and were good to go. green apple

Can I just tell you how warm and fall-like the kitchen smelled. It was delightful. The aroma just brought a sense of calmness to the house (at least for me) and a definite sense of hunger. We were all ready to sit down for this one – well, most of us. pumpkin lentil curry

Miss A, however, was less than pleased with the meal sat before her on this particular evening. It didn’t look familiar and she wasn’t having any of it. Now on some nights I’ll make the kids something other than what Mike and I will eat. I have to pick my battles. But on other nights, what’s set before you is what you get. This was one of those nights. lentil curry for fall

Now Miss A knows the rules. You have to eat some of your dinner before you can ask for a snack (which inevitably follows dinner by an hour or so), so she wasn’t arguing. That said, she was in definite pout mode – big eyes, puffed out lips, crossed arms. At least I thought she had crossed arms. As I turned back from grabbing something off the counter I saw her take her little tube of yogurt and squirt it at Mr. N! As I gasped, she then looked at me and squirted it all over the floor. (Yes, this was a school night.) curried pumpkin

While I do empathize with her situation and know that she’s exhausted both emotionally and physically, we still have to make sure certain behaviors are not condoned. So I picked her up out of her chair and set her on the floor. Then I said she had to go to her room for a time out and when she came back she could clean up her mess and join us for dinner. As you can imagine, this was not what she wanted to hear. The tears started, the collapse to the floor happened and the flailing of arms and legs ensued. She was “too confused” to walk to her room. Her legs “wouldn’t work.” I was the “meanest mom” in the world. And clearly “no one” loves her. Twenty minutes later she was eating her dinner and telling us about her day, and 40 minutes later she was flipping at gymnastics with a smile on her face. pumpkin lentil curry

So you may now be wondering how the curry was received by our little Jekyll and Hyde. Well, she didn’t love it, but she did eat it. It was a 2 spoon vote for her. As for the rest of us, I thought it was the perfect fall dish and gave it 4 spoons. I still find myself craving it. Mike and Mr. N also enjoyed the flavor combinations and gave it 3 spoons each. They don’t crave it like I do, but they would happily eat it again. It was warming, very flavorful and definitely filling.

Print this recipe: Pumpkin Lentil Curry

As for Miss A, well, we’ve been down this road before so I can look at it from a wiser perspective. I can often even find humor in the situation (after I’m out of her line of sight that is), especially since the juxtaposition between her happy-self and melt-down-self is quite drastic. That said, it is getting to be a bit trying as it continues to drag on. I miss my happy girl. I think we’re at the point of an intervention now. For Mr. N it was little jars that he could fill each day – one with M&Ms for good things that happened, and one with black liquorice for bad things that happened. We also had a little chart of things he had to accomplish each day – brush teeth, get dressed, homework, etc. – that he could track himself. He quickly learned that the good things in his day out-weighed the bad, and he enjoyed the sense of accomplishment with his little chart. Problem solved, kindergarten blues banished. It’s time to put my thinking cap on for Miss A now – she’s a different personality than Mr. N and requires a different parenting style. The chart with some twists might work. We shall see. It’s time to banish these blues.

We’ll be back soon with an Amazonian dish to share and then one of us will be picking a new country for the next adventure. I hope for all those celebrating holidays this season that they are off to a wonderful start. May your days be happy and tantrum free.

26 thoughts on “Kindergarten Blues

  1. Two Peas & A Wad says:

    Just found your blog and really like what I’ve read so far! Between your recipes and family anecdotes, it’s been a really great read. I wish your daughter the best in her continued transition! Great recipe, too. Looking forward to reading more!


  2. indusinternationalkitchen says:

    It was lovely reading your post and I could relate to the story very well since I have a similar little Miss at home as well! 🙂 I like how you added apples – that must have made it really yummy! Btw, if you are interested in looking at some typical south Indian curry recipes, you can find them on my blog. Actually I make a pumpkin and lentil curry using coconut that I have not yet posted but will post soon now!


  3. fati's recipes says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post 🙂
    I couldn’t help but think of Miss A with her kids chuckling as they read this post in the future 🙂
    I’m not a fan of lentil curries, but I’m glad to know you enjoyed this one!


  4. Caroline says:

    Aw, that’s definitely a tough transition, but it’s a good thing that Miss A has such wonderful parents to help her get through it! This curry sounds delicious…I love lentils!


  5. Bam's Kitchen says:

    Kindergarten is such a s huge transition. Is it all day kindergarten or half day? They still sometimes need their naps they are just adjusting. I promise it will get better. I love your recipe and your way you pick your battles, that is how they expand they culinary desires by trying new things when they are young. Take care, BAM


  6. Geni - Sweet and Crumby says:

    Your patience and sensitivity always comes through these posts Kristy. Your kids are very lucky. I also remember those early Kindergarten days well. Our school has half day kindergarten and that seemed to be a great transition to the longer days of the following year. It sounds like you are coming up with a plan of action to give her a needed boost.

    This curry looks totally amazing. Pumpkin curry is my favorite, but I’ve never had it with lentils before….totally YUM. Have a great day and give yoursoulf a pat on the back for surviving each new challenge that parenting brings you.


  7. ChgoJohn says:

    I sympathize, Kristy, having witnessed more than my share of mealtime meltdowns by the little ones in my family. For awhile there, it didn’t seem like a meal without one. I’ve no doubt that you’ll find an approach for Miss A that will help her adjust to a changing world. You’ve the benefit of having been there before.
    This sounds like such a delicious dish and I sure wish I had some around here. It’s the perfect dish for the weather we’re having.


  8. Karen says:

    Parenting isn’t easy but neither is growing up…as they say time cures everything. You curry sounds like a very comforting meal. Hopefully the next meal will be 4 spoons with Miss A. 🙂


  9. khateyez says:

    I remember those bitter-sweet days as if it were yesterday, my girl is a “tween” right now and going through a whole new stage of ups and downs. I think girls are so much more dramatic than boys as well. 🙂 Hang in there Mama, she will come around. And isn’t it so quick that they are back to themselves in 20-40 minutes? lol!


  10. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    My daughter is in Kinder too, and her schedule is from 8 to 2:45. While mommy is happy that she can finally work in the morning without kids around, I see she’s very tired everyday. She uses all her energy (to be good and to do well at school) so when she comes home, she gets little tired, sleepy, and not so good at behaving. Until you mentioned, I was looking at her from adult point of view. True, she’s only 5. Just 5 years of life and she’s been experiencing so much. I feel I just learned that I should be more understanding of her behavior. She really enjoys school and does very well that I didn’t think something was wrong. But I think she just need a space at home to feel relax and take a break. But mommy asks her to do homework, piano, swimming and Japanese… You really made me think about this, Kristy! Hope Miss A’s blues will go away soon. She’s a cheerful beautiful girl…we all want her to be happy…. I know it’ll pass. 🙂


  11. Eva Taylor says:

    I am sorry to hear that Miss A is feeling the angst of school, fortunately for me, I cannot remember this feeling otherwise I might be feeling it now! Non-the-less, with such positive reinforcement from her parents, I’m sure she’ll learn to cope, I can only imagine how challenging the drama can be.
    This curry looks amazing — are those bits the apples? They’ve totally taken on the colour of the curry, which makes me think they would be amazingly delicious! JT and I adore indian food and as luck would have it, I have some pure pumpkin purée in the freezer, just waiting for a purpose! We’ll definitely try this for lunch very soon. Hope you have a great week, what’s left of it.


  12. Charles says:

    Oh my God, I chuckled, and then I felt bad… poor Miss. A. What was Mr N’s reaction to getting squirted with yoghurt, I’d like to know?! It must be tough, really tough. William won’t start school until 7 in Sweden. Parents can choose between starting at 6 or at 7… we’ve been thinking that 7 is probably best, since boys usually develop more slowly than girls and having to sit still for so long at 6 (or even 5?!) must be torturous.

    Hang in there! I hope one day Miss A. will appreciate this kind of dish as a real hearty “warmer-upper”… something to calm the frayed nerves, because it sure looks like that kind of dish to me!


  13. Sawsan@ Chef in disguise says:

    Oh Kristy we are going through the exact phase with my son, he is 4 and he is in KG1 and things have been trying to say the least. With my daughter it was very mild and short lived but this time around things are totally different.
    I use the charts but loved the jar idea so much, I may just try that!
    I made an apple, carrot and pumpkin curry last week and I agree, it is fall comfort food at its best


  14. sallybr says:

    My line was already used: parenting is not for sissies… but it’s so true I need to say it again, and that is coming from someone who never had kids, right? But, I’ve lived vicariously through my sisters and nieces parenting issues…

    hang in there, soon they will be 18 and you will miss these days!


  15. spicegirlfla says:

    You are so right in handling each child differently. They come from the same parents, but each is individual in their own unique and special way. I love how you so understand her and I can feel your patience yet your longing for her little self to return. Miss A reminds me of my Gina at that age, always dancing, happy and full of life. I wish she could still be that way, she is in many ways, but the turns of life, ups and downs, creeps into their personalities. We are all told to be more childlike in our view of the world; it would make our lives more rich if we would. Miss A will adjust in her time along with your gentleness and plan of action!


  16. hotlyspiced says:

    Days like that with children can be so exhausting! i remember them well. In fact, I think we’re still facing them. There’s always a stage with children and you think that when they’re older it will all be plain sailing but it isn’t – you just enter a new phase. I’ve been in tears this week with what my Archie has been facing – tears because he’s now in an adult world having to cope with adult situations and life can be very, very hard – and he’s learning that. It’s always hard being a mum xx


  17. Munchy says:

    My son has been going to school for four months and I can see the baby blues creeping in now. This is fantastic advice and it is more wonderful because I got it in advance. Hopefully we can avoid the downs if I just start the charts and the jars now. Thank you so much!


  18. Velva says:

    It is a tough transition to kindergarten but, all will be well. The curry dish looked divine. I certainly would not have had any problems enjoying a big bowl.


  19. Norma Chang says:

    It is not easy being 5, sit in a classroom the whole day and adhere to schedule. She will adjust quickly but in the meantime it is difficult for Mom. I too have a boy and a girl, they have similar personality but still required different parenting style.


  20. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says:

    What a beautiful coincidence; I was just popping you a note when your new post notification came in… serendipity! I can certainly empathize with Miss A and everything she must be going through — it’s tough fitting into a rigid schedule and sacrificing time especially when you’re a free spirit like your lovely sprite… you know she will adjust but in the meantime, mommy hugs to you (and the whole family ;-)). I have no trouble imagining the delightful aroma coming from your pumpkin lentil curry Kristy…comfort food at its best and I love the addition of chopped apple! Sounds like a winner – xo.


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