Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Zone of Proximal Development

Tonight Barnacle Boy briefly left the table, I presumed to get the other half of his pannini (he'd left it in the warm pan to keep the cheese nicely melted). "I just switched the laundry," he announced matter of factly upon his return. The laundry? What laundry? "Are you doing the laundry?" I wondered. "Of course, I needed my gym shirt washed. I did a load of colors." I'm stunned. (I'm still stunned, to be honest.) "I'm very proud of you," I offered, perhaps a beat too late. "Are you really? I know how to do laundry!" I assured him that I trusted his ability to wash clothes, and was duly impressed by his self-sufficiency. "Your dad, now..." I started off teasingly.

I'd been down in the laundry this morning and noticed that Math Man had carefully hung up a huge collection of our outdoor gear to dry. What really caught my eye, however, was the large light pink athletic sock on the rack by the dehumidifier...and the pink gaiter and... A red fleece item had been washed with whites, and the results were predictable. It ran.

Math Man blushed (though he hadn't noticed the pink sock, just the now-pink gaiter). "Remember the year of the blue turtlenecks?" When we were first married, Math Man had washed jeans with his socks and underwear and all my white cotton turtlenecks (still a staple in my winter wardrobe). His theory was that he didn't want to do an extra load of wash, and didn't care what color his underwear was. Alas, I did care what color my turtlenecks were, so the theory should not have been extended to cover them. They were all now a pale shade of something I could only describe as Virgin Mary Blue. I lived a year with them, the budget wouldn't stretch to replacements. He proudly noted that this time my turtlenecks were not in the load. "You're learning!" "I'm in the zone of proximal development," he shot back.

The Boy now thinks his parents have lost it entirely (he may think that all the time, but I'm afraid to ask). "What's the zone of proximal development?" Math Man, having spent 5 years as a PI of a huge grant for math-science teaching, told him it's when you know enough not to be frustrated and not enough to be bored. Or when you know enough to separate the colors from your wife's whites.


  1. your son seems to be off to a better start than your husband and I. I once washed and dried a wool sweater that had fit my wife. Lately I seem to be not checking pockets as well...

  2. Great story about the laundry! I think we have all had the stories about the red something in the whites... and then pink....

  3. *laughing out loud* Thank you.