As we’ve seen and will continue to see, Elly has the devil’s own time getting her children to clean their rooms. Every so often, we have to see her get into a pitched battle with her kids because she doesn’t think that they have pride in their surroundings; the payoff is that the evil, chaos-loving, mother-hating child loves the filth because children are evil and defiant. What all this reminds me of is a sound-bite from the old PBS show “Caillou” that has the title character declare that he doesn’t want to be clean for some reason or another. No child that I have ever encountered would say this any more than he would ask for ‘sugar cereal’. What seems to be happening is that an exasperated adult who doesn’t have much of an insight into how her children think or any inclination towards gaining any is putting her words in the child’s mouth.
What Elly does not seem able to realize is that Michael, Elizabeth and April have the same need to control their environment that she and every other person alive have. She also tends to not want to admit that small children react poorly to change. What this leads to is her not being able to understand or sympathize with their confusion and anger when told that all of a sudden, Mommy can’t pick up after them any more. We must also factor in Elly’s very low tolerance for disagreement. The instant that a child does not immediately and blindly agree with the belligerent stream of passive-aggressive codswallop issuing forth from Mommy’s lips, he or she is a bad child who wants to usher in chaos; this goes double for a child who doesn’t clean in exactly the right way. We thus have something anyone not stupid and useless would see as a natural response to being treated like an enemy: a passive-aggressive act of rebellion. Not, of course, that she or John see their own need for their children to admit that they're horrible little parasites who ruined their parents' lives as causing the defiance that scares and angers them. More on that next time.