The interesting thing about watching Elly over the years is that it becomes almost immediately obvious that her favourite form of recreation is looking for reasons to dislike other people owing to the volatile temper she doesn't admit to having any more than she'll entertain the idea people have that she's highly strung. As by way of example, her festering hatred of Mira Sobinski appears to have been touched off mostly by feeling 'dictated to' and 'enmeshed in family politics' because she'd been asked to follow rules that put her in a lesser position than she desires to have. We know that Mira had every right to tell Elly what to wear, where to stand and everything because she was ramrod of that cattle drive but you can't tell Elly that. No matter what Mira does, she's 'in the way' because she insists on being present in her child's life when that's not convenient for Elly.
The fun thing is that Elly would gleefully deny that Mira makes her feel insecure and inadequate. I know this because the April who saw Becky's stealing everything from her as an inevitability because she's conventionally pretty denies that she's jealous, insecure and just plain cherry-picking when looking for an excuse to dislike her. What's more, it's kind of obvious that Mira probably thinks that Elly likes her because she simply stews in passive-aggressive resentment instead of confronting her like someone with a backbone might.
Here's a little thought-experiment for you; imagine yourself to be friends with Phil Richards. For reason or another, you and he one day end up at the Pattermanse in the early eighties watching Elly struggling with her endless load of laundry. You ask him if this is a common occurence; he says it is but he doesn't know why. It baffles him because, unlike his mother, Big Sis doesn't need to take in laundry from other people to help make ends meet. This, of course, leads into a long, pointless argument about how Phil thought that Elly knew that; when she gets all defensive, snarly and pouty when your pal asks the question "You aren't doing all that because you think that's how things are supposed to be, are you?", you start eyeing the door and perhaps reconsidering your friendship with the man if he's got a sibling this dimwitted, stubborn and surly.
What you've just witnessed, of course, is how the Pattersons reject common sense and substitute their own arbitrary, silly and stupid point of view. The example I came up with, of course, doesn't appear in the strip itself but it's the only thing that doesn't involve Elly having super OCD that makes sense; what could have happened is that she watched Marian do a lot of laundry and never stirred herself to ask why because she assumed that's simply how things were done. If so, her need to not assert herself when it's necessary acted to her detriment once more.
Also, her inability to see that simply because a dog has an expression on its face that means a certain thing when it's worn by a human doesn't mean that the dog feels that way hampers her almost as badly as her belief that if she demonstrates her sincerity, her children will sit quietly where ever she plops them and not do anything baffling like move around or get into things. In both those cases, she would rather not accept the fact that a dog doesn't think along the same lines as we do or that a child needs more attention than she has the stamina to provide.
Similary, John cannot get it through his thick skull that when he makes his demeaning remarks, he will not be applauded for his creativity; the idea that his right to swing his arm ends with the other person's nose is seen as an attempt to limit his right to swing his arm. He also tends to not be on the same page with the rest of us when it comes to asking the question "What's going on around me?"; a man with a lick of sense would ask "What really happened in Anthony's marriage?", "Why does Elly look so unfulfilled?" or "Hey, I wonder what's got April so upset about the move" instead of letting his preconceptions answer the questions for him. That way, he could avoid the baffling horror of being blindsided when truths that he never foresaw because they don't mesh with the shibboleths spot-welded into his narrow mind emerge. If, for instance, he were to come across proof that even he could not will away or shout down that Thérèse was far more sinned against than sinning, it would totally throw him for a loop because, despite being an unavoidable reality, it would same to make no sense at first.
Having to answer the questions the revelation of what an awful person his beloved Anthony really is raised would, of course, occasion the same sort of unpleasant conversation Elly has with herself whenever she does something so dumb, even she can't hide behind the old, familiar excuses; the nasty little voice in his head that tells him that he doesn't actually know anything useful about anything because he refuses to think about what he's doing would be roaring back with an unwelcome vengeance.
When the time does come for John to realize that most of what he thought was solid, unshakable fact was in reality as fragile as tissue paper, he won't be able to deal with it any more than Elly can really admit that she wasted her life chasing delusions. It would be like the terrible day when Liz is somehow forced to face the fact that it's not the world's fault that it doesn't supply her with an endless supply of ankles to cower behind in diaper-soiling terror; I don't even want to think about the day when Mike realizes that he's wasted his life expecting everyone to service his needs.
I think that we can all safely agree that Elly goes into a situation based on how impressive it would make her look; as an example, she likes the idea of being a mother but, as we've seen, doesn't do very well at it because the day-to-day details of bandaging skinned knees, tending to bruised egos, keeping track of where they are and what they're doing, keeping a cool head and, above all, having to remember that her children depend on her is far more than she could possibly do.
What seems to make it worse is that Elly sees people who seem to have perfect children without any effort that she can see. Since she insists on confusing constantly doing the wrong thing or focusing mindlessly on non-issues with actually putting in the effort required to do what needs to be done, she can't see that the people she hates for making it look easy work harder than she does. Trying to explain this to her would, of course, be an exercise in futility. It would be like trying to tell her that her witlessly racing around the house in a blind rush because her over-focus on the laundry she doesn't do right anyway has eaten away the time that could have been spent doing something productive is why the house never looks clean.
Similarly, it's sort of impossible to explain to Mike and Liz that all the people that they think are frightful suck-ups don't get good grades because they flatter their teachers; having to explain to them that buckling down and getting things done takes less time than standing around bellowing about how haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard math is and how much they haaaaaaaaaaaate it does would be like trying to explain things to a fencepost. Or, if you want something less animated, John.
As we've seen, the Pattersons are very slow-witted, small-minded people who don't realize how abnormal and atypical they are. As an example, most people don't actually wear themselves out doing a crapload of laundry every single frakking day of their lives just to feel as if they're doing anything at all nor do they leave themselves with so little time afterwards that a house that would take a more organized person an hour to clean is only half-way tidy at the end of the day. The problem is that Elly admits to knowing no other way of doing things. You see, admitting to that would leave her humiliated by having to admit that she doesn't actually know what she's talking about and, well, since she and John are of a kind, the idea of that sickens her. This means that she assumes that everyone else must be like her and if they aren't, they're not doing a good job of things. This is also why she doesn't actually take the vicious infighting between her children any more seriously than John takes her outside interests; since she and Phil fought like scorpions, she assumes the horrific mess we see is normal, healthy and good and must only stop in the name of making her look competent.
As for John, most of what he assumes that everyone knows can be summarized as "Whatever makes life easy for me is good and whatever does not is bad; if other people are inconvenienced by my getting my way, they should never have gotten in it." This sort of thinking not only explains why he's sort of not aware of how very conflicted Elly is; since he needs her to be a happy homemaker, he not only tries to will away the fact that she isn't, he tries to paint her as being somehow not normal for being as worried as everyone else.
The parental need to assume that what they want to think everyone believes is what everyone does believe would be bad enough if it stopped with them; sadly, the need to will reality away is so strong, the children have picked up on it. Mike is so sure that if he had a kid brother, his life would be perfect, he not only blinds himself to displays of brother-sister harmony, he totally ignores how much infighting goes on between Christopher and Richard Nichols. Also, Liz needs to believe that teachers play favorites because she doesn't want to admit that she's sort of stupid; also, she needs to believe that the sort of loveless union she and Anthony have is what everyone wants because otherwise, she'd realize that she played her cards abominably. This puts her on much the same romantic page as Michael; both of them have traded away people who could have made their lives better for John and Elly's creatures who only exist to remind them of their need to let their wonderful parents own their horses because they gave them more than was dreamed of in the philosophy of John Rosemond: food, clothing, shelter and medical care.
Remember how pissed off we were when either Elly or John dismissed Paul by asking Liz where he was when she needed him? Remember how angry the realization that the only reason that the same Anthony that they seemed to want to marry a lot more than Liz did was even there was because of a court summons made us? I'd like to re-examine that, if I may. It seems to me thatt the Pattersons aren't impressed by the things that would entrance and excite normal people because of their warped, self-serving values and inability to figure out how the world works. As I've explained before, the presence of genuinely heroic figures and those who don't wait for fate to plop things into their laps alarms and disgusts them because they call into question the notion that the Foobs are at all sympathetic figures. This not only requires them to denigrate those who don't passively vegetate so as to avoid risk, it mandates that they lionize those who serve their needs. Iris is impressive in much the same way that Anthony and Gordon are; they make it easier to be Pattersons so they're great people. It's a good thing that the Pattersons ARE as insulated from reality as they are; that keeps them from realizing that the derisive hooting that they hear from time to time is directed at them when they boast about all the horrible people they know.
One of the more annoying things about reading the strip is watchinmg Elly stint herself needlessly in the firm but false belief that the ten pounds of excess flab no one but her can see is a sign of her being worthless and week; John gets a lot of fun out of it but, as we've seen, he doesn't seem to notice how foolish it is for her to deny herself pleasure in the pursuit of a damaging illusion.
I, of course, didn't expect that of him; that's because he and the rest of them deny themselves a lot of happiness because they believe that taking an active pleasure in the things of this world is a sign that they're low, garish, slobby people wallowing in the muck. The wrong sort, you see, wear bright colors, talk far too much and get needlessly combative, eat threatening foodstuffs, paw all over one another, are too permissive with their children and dress garishly and lasciviously.
Speaking of Wilf and Mira, the bright colors and demonstrative nature of the Sobinskis are a threat to the way they see the world. After all, if it could be said that there's something to saying exactly what's on your mind to the people who bother you, taking an active interest into what your children do and thinking of their concerns as being meaningful, showing affection and not dressing so as to blend in with the crowd, that would mean that they'd wasted their lives in the pursuit of an empty comfort when real happiness was there all along.
This exaggerated need to not expose themselves to risk is why they seem to prefer dull, slug-like males and bovine females as mates; that way, big scary emotions and the bigger, scarier fear of disappointment can't threaten them. Better to not really live at all than to live with any sort of pain, you see.
As we've seen in the past, John and Elly seem to have it fixed in their heads that their children somehow owe them the money they spent raising them. This, of course, seems to be because they really don't quite understand that their dependents are incapable of looking after themselves and are not merely sponging off them out of malice. This leads them to not giving their adult children monetary gifts because of a belief that it hampers the children's attempt to be independent; after all, said gift must be paid back so to do so is to try to create a client. Given how they love to claim that the Sobinskis are using their family politics to somehow ensnare Michael by monetary gifts, it's clear that they have no real idea that Mira doesn't expect to be paid back or would be horrified by the suggestion that she should expect it. Since they judge her by their standards, they assume the worst.
They're helped by Deanna who seems to have bitterly resented being actively parented when she wanted to be left to vegetate. One cannot read Deanna's bill of particulars without realizing that she likes Elly for the same reasons we do not; one is left to wonder where Mira and Wilf went wrong that they gave birth to someone who admires and respects inattention, depression, rage and a willful inability to empathize with the needs of minors.
Speaking of the chronic stupidity and criminal ineptitude that passed for parenting in the Pattermanse, we find that the bellowing, inconsistency and lack of empathy have borne the bitter fruit of adults who cannot cope with the demands of daily life. Mike's first big decision, after all, was to run crying home to Mommy when the big meanie Gluttson asked that he try making one for a change. Similary, Liz's attempts at being a person in her own right were as pathetic, ugly and doomed as Elly's. The end result is that given that John and Elly make Mafia loansharks look caring and generous, the steps they take to make their children independent turn them into their clients.
What makes them look even worse is that the people they despise for their garish and unpleasant habit of enjoying their lives end up looking far more appealing to people who matter. As an example, when Elly puffs herself up by boasting that she gives Meredith and Robin time instead of toys, that really means that the children have a different person bellowing "Don't do that" without ever suggesting that there's something that they can do; the reason for that, of course, is that whoever's guarding them doesn't want to deal with them lest her brains dissolve and she become a weak, useless child herself. When I contrast her with Mira who gets involved and channels her children's creative urges instead of having the Pattersonian hope that they'll go away and reconcile themselves to their "proper" role of "grinning zombie who sits where Mommy plunks her down and never bothers Mommy by moving or embarrasses her by being curious about the world", I find myself thinking that Elly, Liz and Deanna are not only full of crap, they should be expressly forbidden from being near minor children. Steps must, you see, be taken to protect children from dangerous things and people.
As we all know, the Pattersons tend to be baffled by the existence of people who aren't sympathetic to the mean ends and fatuous, self-serving goals they've set for themselves; it baffles them, for instance, when someone comes along and tells them that it looks as if they actively tried to destroy Thérèse's marriage simply because it was an inconvenient obstacle. That, of course, is immediately followed by an incoherent attempt to state that they did no such thing; according to them, all the blame for what happened is that she wanted more than Fate alloted her. Anyone not beholden to them financially would respond by exhorting them to not urinate on his or her leg and declare that it's raining. We know that they decided that Liz must marry Anthony at all costs because it was convenient for them and them alone. It matters not that neither person likes one another or, given what we've seen, is really compatible; John and Elly need to control Gordon and need to make sure that Liz pays them back all the money they spent raising her since they couldn't spend it on themselves like they wanted to. Since their perception of those around them is as warped as their self-concept, a Patterson regards someone who doesn't like them as being either jealous or deluded; the idea that someone could have an honest dislike for what a Foob wants might lead that person to the dangerous conclusion that he or she is doing something he or she should not. That way leads to the eternal humiliation of being forced to constantly apologize and never being allowed to get up off the floor; simply put, we're dealing with a bunch of spoiled children who think that admitting error leads to eternal torment.
The saddest part, of course, is that the same people who the Pattersons describe as being jealous picky-faces who basically hate themselves and need to ruin other people's fun actually sort of just pity them; that's because the Pattersons themselves are filled with self-loathing, envy and malice and it bothers them that other people are having more fun than they are. As a matter of fact, the idea of really enjoying life so bothers them, they've forted themselves up in their bunkers so they can rid themselves of the last shreds of the humanity they despise so much.