We’re coming up to a rather interesting strip that reminds us that most of why Elly finds it so hard to relate to her children is that when a child says something you’d probably expect her to say in a given situation, our hero reacts as if the child has sprouted a third eye. The strip starts with Lizzie telling Elly that she’s hungry and our distracted hero muttering about dinner being in the oven. When Lizzie tells her that she’s hungry NOW, Elly blandly states that dinner will be in fifteen minutes. Lizzie then goes on to say that her tummy can’t tell time. A normal person would react to this with a rueful smile because she’d have just been reminded once again that while she sees the hands on the clock as simply whizzing by, small children perceive time as dragging along sloooooooooowly and painfully. Elly cannot do this. Every single time we see Elly find out that her children don’t see time as zooming along and denying busy mothers with no help and no time to themselves the chance to keep up, the intimation that they’ve got more time than they know what to do with surprises her.
The reason for this is symptomatic of what is wrong with her as a person. While it is true that Elly can feel sympathy for other people, what she doesn’t seem able to feel is empathy; why people do things is not a question that can even begin to occur to her because of her odd tendency to see herself as the measure of all things. This means that when a three-year old child explains that her hunger doesn’t switch on and off just because the clock says so, Elly doesn’t see a baffled and anxious child wondering why Mommy wants her to starve, she sees a selfish child trying to manipulate her so as to hurry her along and steal what free time she has left because that’s what effect she sees.