As I’ve said before and will say again, one of the things Elly believes is that her children have to take her seriously. The poor dolt is transfixed by the delusion that if her children see her laugh or smile, her authority over them will vanish because they’re going to think that she’s a grinning, simple-minded idiot who, since she doesn’t take parenting seriously, can’t be trusted. In her mind, only someone who yells, someone inflexible, someone who lays down arbitrary rules that cannot be questioned can possibly be an effective parent. The problem with that is also something I’ve pointed out a lot. Instead of her children thinking that she’s a chuckling buffoon that they can walk all over, Mike, Liz and April end up thinking that she’s a lecturing moron who doesn’t understand what’s going on around her and angrily flaps her gums about something that she’s too stupid and out of touch to possibly comprehend.
What makes this painful to watch is that every so often, they remind her that they think of her as little more than an annoying buzzkill that rants about nothing and who can only derive pleasure from seeing them suffer for crimes that only exist in her one half of an empty brain. The realization that she’s thought of as a yapping hindrance who’s only being taken seriously because they’d rather not have someone that they’re actually intimidated by back up his little ventriloquist’s dummy doesn’t do much for Elly’s peace of mind. She just doesn’t understand why being an inflexible clod who won’t back down no matter how much the chicken in her wants to cave doesn’t make her children do anything but resent her. She also doesn’t understand why she doesn’t have the bland, conformist family she saw in those stupid-ass social engineering films from the fifties. Instead of rearing the next generation of fearful Birchers, she wound up with apathetic slobs who drifted through life.
What adds the seasoning of idiocy to this horrible catastrophe is that it's the end result of Elly not getting the point. The reason that she believes that adults are grim, judgmental figures who don't laugh, smile or have any give is because her mother never seemed to enjoy life much. What Elly doesn't seem to see is that the reason that Marian behaved that way is because her child was a defiant, ill-tempered, demanding, destructive, vindictive, sullen irritant. If Elly had been anything less than the model of the modern major arsebucket, it's very likely that Marian's mood would not have been so sour which would mean that Elly herself would be more tolerant of her children's behavior.