CANDY ALLAN: It’s all about dealing with expectations

As I was getting ready for work earlier this week, I shared the bathroom with my daughter, who was getting ready for school.

It took me about six seconds to realize she’s better at the whole girl thing than I am.

She has coordinating outfits, she plans her accessories, she considers her shoe choices, she plans her hairstyle for the day. She’s 9 years old.

I get up, I have a vague idea what doesn’t clash with what, I comb my hair. Done. Shoe choice? Shorter pants get flats (of which I have one pair) and longer pants, dresses and skirts get heels or wedges (one pair each). Done. I’m slightly more than 9 years old.

Make-up isn’t a question for my daughter yet … but I’m sure she’ll bring it up. I can apply make-up well, I just don’t choose to do so. I could argue that the men in the office aren’t expected to wear it, and appear to be championing the cause of feminism. I could say I don’t want to wake up the extra few minutes it would take and appear to be lazy. The truth is a mixed bag out in the middle.

I certainly know I didn’t bother planning outfits when I was 9, though. I went through high school in jeans and a t-shirt in warm weather, and jeans and sweater in the winter.

My daughter has a stunning array of options, with leggings, slacks, jeans, skirts, multiple colors of tights and more. She’s HAPPY when she gets clothes for her birthday or Christmas. I looked on them more as ‘required’ presents every kid gets because kids grow.

Before you decide she’s a stereotypical little princess, let me tell you how she describes herself: “I’m a tomboy girly-girl.”

Notice tomboy came first. (Mama is proud.)

Growing up, I always told my dad he was harder on me than my brother, which he said wasn’t true. I countered with, “Yes, it is. I have to be as good as anybody else when it comes to haying or driving tractor or anything, but I also have to be a ‘lady’ and know how to sit in a dress and how to act.” After a moment’s thought, he agreed with me. And then pointed out that the double expectation is how the world works, so I’d better figure out how to deal with it.

For my daughter, the world hasn’t changed so much that she doesn’t need to worry about different expectations than her brother does. But – at least at this point in her life – she’s got a handle on how she’s going to deal with it.

“I’m a tomboy girly-girl.”

She’s unafraid to take on any challenge in a traditionally “male” domain, from starting a fire when camping (with plenty of supervision) to learning to shoot; from being a leader to speaking her mind. She’s just going to do so in a perfectly matched outfit, accessorized just right and with a killer hairstyle –more power to her.

I’m supposed to be her example. I don’t know that she needs one.

Let’s be honest, I’ve been making up this parenting thing as I go along ever since my son was born. I know there’s more experienced parents out there and folks with different ideas. Respond to my column by emailing me at, and you might see your thoughts in print in an upcoming issue of the Pioneer.


Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at

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