Our thirteen-month-old grandson sometimes makes me think of the Granthams in Downton Abbey!
Lord and Lady Grantham are central characters of the highly successful British drama. They own and live in Downton Abbey, a fictional stately home in Yorkshire. (The actual home is Highclere Castle, close to London.)
Lord and Lady Grantham have many servants, as was common a hundred years ago – in fact, right up until World War II (the series has now reached the 1920’s) and the advent of socialism. In those days, over three million people in the UK were “in service.” Today, the number is less than 100,000 with roughly three million unemployed! (Actually, that’s not accurate any more, but it was some years ago.) Don’t think it was any different in the United States – most middle class families had a servant or two a century ago. Noah Webster defined a family as a husband and wife, their children and servants living under one roof.
Anyway, the Granthams order their servants to do this, that and the other and they do.
Far more fearsome is the Dowager Countess of Grantham, the widowed mother of Lord Grantham, who remembers being at Balmoral in 1860, when Queen Victoria was the hostess. The Dowager Countess is played by the irascible Maggie Smith, who is now 78. I think all would agree that Maggie steals the show.
So why does our grandson remind me of the Dowager Countess?
The reason is that, in Aubren’s mind, everybody else is his servant. He commands and expects an immediate response, just like the Countess.
When the weather is nice, I take him out for a walk. When he’s ready, he gives me a commanding look that says, as would the Dowager Countess, “You can get my carriage ready now, Rhodes.” The usual response is “Yes, my lady!” You can no more refuse Aubren than you can the Dowager Countess.
Once he’s in the carriage and we are out walking, I can’t stop to look at anything or talk to anybody. He insists on constant movement. He makes no allowance for the fact that I’m not into constant movement any more!
If the sun, a rare sight nowadays, gets in his eyes, he lets me know right away that he needs me to adjust his stroller so that he isn’t blinded.
He also lets me know when he needs his diaper changed, his nose wiped or a drink!
Like the Dowager, he gives no thought to me, or my needs! In his mind, my sole reason for existence is to serve him.
It reminds me of what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 20:27, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave!”
In the family context, the father, as the biblical head of the family, is the chief servant. His sole reason for existence is to serve his family. Grandfathers are no different – I’m still a father, but now also a grandfather. So now I have three or four times as many people to serve, just within the family. Aubren is demanding, but, when I next visit Indianapolis and the sun is shining, I will be walking his twin boy cousins, Ethan and Evan, who will no doubt be the same. Leeson, Aubren’s younger brother, is also inclining towards being rather imperious.
Grandchildren can be very demanding, but, I have to tell you, I love it. I enjoy being a servant, just as the servants in Downton Abbey seem to enjoy their lives. Like them, I know my place in the great scheme of things.
And there is one glaring difference between Aubren and the Dowager Countess – Aubren is cute!