Why I Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff When Returning to School

With an Angelman child, I've learned to set priorities amid transition chaos

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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When you’re heading back to school, many tasks vie for your attention. Getting those things in order for a big transition can be stressful and overwhelming; it’s a lot to juggle and coordinate.

Our Angel, Juliana, started middle school this year, and things are going relatively smoothly for her now. Although she’s having a great start, I’m not immune to the back-to-school chaos. This August, in fact, is more hectic than usual, not only because of Juliana’s change, but also because I began teaching at a new school. Big things need my attention, so I’m making the small stuff a low priority.

From getting back on a schedule to completing endless forms, I need some rhyme and reason to help keep it all straight. Years ago, returning to school got easier for us when I learned how to prioritize and order. I think my minimalistic view  forces me to simplify and dumb down the most tedious of tasks to make it all work.

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Tricks of the trade

The other part of this less-is-more strategy is knowing my limitations. I can’t do everything, and I rarely try. I find that a hectic season like back to school is a great time for me to say no. If something is important, I will certainly say yes. But there’s already so much to handle. If I’m tempted or guilted into adding more to my plate, I simply don’t. I keep in mind that as the mother of an Angel, I’m already at risk for added stress as we navigate the uncertainties of Angelman syndrome.

I no longer consider myself new to special needs parenting, but I’m still adjusting to the plethora of paperwork that comes my way when school starts. I manage it by sending it back in order of priority. Juliana’s medical and seizure paperwork is a high priority, so it was filled out immediately. And because I’m never hesitant to delegate, I handed this task off to my husband. I keep all my old forms so we always have a template to follow. I simply pulled out last year’s copies for him to have a point of reference. Preparing like this is a big time saver, too.

In due time

I’m starting the forms that aren’t urgent a little at a time now. I put them all in one big stack and will work my way through them until they’re done. For some people, every form seems urgent. But I’ve learned through the years that not all paperwork is created equal. In the nine years Juliana’s been in school, no one has ever complained about my returning low-priority documents later.

Yes, it would be great to have all of her paperwork completed in the first few days of school. But it’s just difficult to manage. I don’t have the time or energy to stay up all night filling out forms. In addition to the low-priority forms, low-priority supplies, like teacher wish-list items, are sent in at another time. High-priority supplies, like changes of clothes and Juliana’s weighted vest, went to school during open house.

I don’t fool myself into believing that a smooth transition back to school is an urgent event. It can’t all be done at once. I can lessen the craziness and stress by not trying to orchestrate the transition perfectly. Prioritizing tasks saves me a whole lot of headaches. I’m happy to give myself a little grace by leaving the small stuff for another day.


Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.

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