The day started badly. In a public place. And Daddy was mortified.
He was in no mood to listen to me, blinded by the bright side, telling him that everything was going to be ok when it clearly wasn’t. We were standing at the bus-stop, with several other families waiting quietly with their well-behaved children, when Freddie suddenly started to scream and shout belligerently and act in a very stroppy manner, for no apparent reason. Or at least, no reason that was apparent to anyone else.
Freddie had been told we were waiting for a bus to take us into Mahon. He had seen a bus draw up on the opposite side of the road, drop off lots of people, and then drive away. Without us. He doesn’t seem to grasp yet that the first bus that comes is not necessarily the bus we want, that different buses go to different places. He is exactly the same at home if we are waiting for the bus to the City Centre and the bus to into Town arrives first (it’s extra confusing where we live as both buses have the same number on the front, their routes diverge later).
But Daddy didn’t know this. Being at work, he doesn’t get to see what Freddie is like out and about as much as I do. He doesn’t get to see how, little by little, things improve with experience. Freddie loves school trips now, but when he first started school he would cry inconsolably whenever he was taken on the bus. His reception teacher used to sing to him to take his mind off it. He learnt to associate the minibus with a nice sing-song.
In the UK you can generally just push a buggy onto the bus and ‘park’ it, with the child still in, but Menorcan buses are somewhat different. The pushchair had to be folded and stowed in the luggage compartment. That meant that Freddie would have to sit on someone’s knee. Because I am rather small, and a wriggling six-year-old can be quite a handful for me to contain, when carrying or lap-sitting are required Daddy usually takes over. But he seemed so stressed out by Freddie’s behaviour that I said I’d have him today. But Daddy insisted.
As soon as we got onto the bus, Freddie’s demeanour changed completely. He was a cheerful little imp once more, happy to sit on his daddy’s lap and look at a magazine they found in Mummy’s Big Bag of Stuff. Although Daddy tried to read discreetly, several people sitting nearby were able to enjoy it too — they thanked Daddy for the very soothing story as they got off the bus. I breathed a mental sigh of relief — it looked as though I was right about the cause of his tantrum after all.
Mahon was beautiful and breezy, with narrow, busy streets, and wide open squares, boutiques, restaurants and pavement cafes, and plenty of other interesting things to see. Now, here were things that Freddie DID understand — shopping, sightseeing and eating out. All things we’ve done before, but now with the benefit of sunshine.
After that, everything just seemed to fall into place. Freddie began to eat and behave better, and his toilet-training, which had gone to pot, started to get back on track, as he got to grips with our different environment and routine. Each day began with a leisurely breakfast, then either time spent by the pool, or an outing, followed by an evening stroll on the clean, sandy beach (jumping on other people’s sandcastles because there was hardly anyone to see), then a scrumptious chocolate milkshake as the sun went down (why Mummy and Daddy insisted on drinking beer was a mystery).
We ate out twice a day, most days, because it was cheaper than buying food at the ‘Supermercado’, which meant that I got a proper rest on holiday for the first time in my married life. And because I wasn’t frazzled and resentful that everyone else was getting a break while I was just doing the same stuff in a different place, which is what usually happens with self-catering, we didn’t squabble. Even Daddy began to chill out. With a few simple distractions we found that Freddie could be induced to sit still and play on the end of a sunlounger for a period of time, long enough for us to enjoy a nice cool drink.
On our last night on the beach, while Big Sister took Freddie paddling in the sea, Daddy told me that he thought it was the best holiday we had ever had.
As we landed at Manchester, Big Sister said she never wants to holiday in the UK again. Mission accomplished!