As we all know, we're all about three years away from having to deal with the arc in which John and Elly pack the kids off to summer camp to get'em out of their hair. While Lizzie is somewhat sanguine about the prospect, Michael wonders how it is that he's supposed to feel wounded and wronged and so forth if she keeps trying to make him look forward to something he's certain is going to be a punishment. The reason that I mention this is that it seems to be a recurring theme in the Middle Years of the strip. What generally ends up happening is that the quivering mushhead parents overreact to some mild inconvenience and impose a sentence they never adequately explain. The natural reaction to this is for the child in question to not want to give Mom and Dad the satisfaction of willing cooperation because of the whole testing boundaries thing that the 'rents never quite seem to understand. This leads to something of a vicious circle in which the refusal the Pattersons have to communicate leads to more pointless anger with each passing day. Eventually, the children get out in to the real world and do what Elly did to Marian: ask her if they ever thanked her and John for doing what they do to their children.