How hair, makeup, and date preparations helped 2 sisters bond

Readying my daughter with Rett syndrome for her first high school dance

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by Jackie Babiarz |

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Last weekend, my oldest daughter, 14-year-old Cammy, went to her first high school dance. Since she has Rett syndrome, Cammy’s everyday life has many more challenges than neurotypical children face. Among those challenges: getting ready for a dance.

Fortunately, Cammy’s younger sister, 12-year-old Ryan, embraced all the preparations and helped hype her sister up for her big night.

Cammy is much smaller than most girls her age. She’s about 4 feet tall and maybe 40 pounds wet. Shopping for her size is a challenge because though she’s a teenager with a teenager’s taste, clothes for an 8-year-old are all that fit her.

Cammy was adamant that she wanted a pink dress. I posted on a local Facebook page to ask for help finding such a dress that was appropriate for a teenager, and the local moms came to the rescue. Many offered dresses their daughters had worn. Ryan carefully reviewed them to make sure the styles were still in. Cammy loved the first dress I showed her, and thankfully, it fit. She was over the moon to have a hot pink dress.

I knew our dance preparations would take an entire day because of Cammy’s scheduled feeds and her limited endurance. I also knew that I’d be overwhelmed with it all, as hair and makeup have never been my thing. Luckily, Ryan loves all of that.

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A sister gets to work

I gave Cammy a shower in the morning, then let her rest during a feed. An hour later, I blow-dried her hair, then let her rest during another feed. Two hours before the dance, Ryan carefully and gently did Cammy’s makeup. As she worked, she held up a mirror to show Cammy each step. Cammy smiled to indicate her approval.

An hour later, Ryan did her hair. Because of Cammy’s profound scoliosis, her head tilts left and downward, which made for a challenge. I took her out of her wheelchair and held her on my lap, facing me. Ryan patiently followed Cammy’s cues as they indicated the need for a break or new position. Ryan twisted, turned, squatted, and did many yoga poses to get all around her sister’s hair to curl it. I kept watching how Cammy smiled with pride as her sister was taking care of her.

A girl sits in her wheelchair on a gray outdoor patio; green grass is in the background. She has long brown hair and wears a short and bright pink dress, a red wrist corsage, and a black sweater or jacket.

Cammy Babiarz, all dressed up for her first high school dance. (Photo by Jackie Babiarz)

After we put Cammy’s dress and shoes on her, we sat her back in her wheelchair. She couldn’t stop smiling at herself in the full-length mirror. Ryan had made her look like a Barbie doll.

When we gathered at a park before the dance to meet Cammy’s date, Jack, and take photos, Cammy continued to smile nonstop. She looked and felt like a princess, and Jack, who also has special needs, looked so handsome.

Ryan put the corsage on her sister and adjusted her positions to get better photos. Cammy looked at her and grinned in appreciation. Ryan intervened in a sly way so Cammy wouldn’t be embarrassed when I adjusted her, too.

When we dropped off Cammy and Jack at the dance, an army of special education teachers and support staff met us. We knew the two were in great hands and ready to have an incredible time with their peers. Cammy and Jack were excited to be out without their parents.

After the dance, Ryan came with me to pick up Cammy, who was still grinning. When I asked if she wanted to go to another dance, Cammy smiled big and looked at Ryan. I asked, “You want to go to another dance if Ryan does your hair and makeup again?” Cammy’s eyes looked straight at me to communicate an enthusiastic yes.

To me, Cammy’s first homecoming dance was about so much more than the dance itself. My girls had a beautiful day together, bonding in a typical way that sisters do. Watching Ryan prepare Cammy’s hair and makeup while Cammy accepted her love was something I’ll cherish forever.

Note: Rett 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 Rett Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Rett syndrome.


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