One mama's look at Amsterdam's very own extreme sport... taking your baby on a tram.
"The tram system is great!" People will tell you, "So fast, so efficient and much cheaper than <insert their home city here>". And you know what? They're mostly right. Until you have a baby.
It's not that the tram operator, GVB, haven't tried to accommodate their smallest passengers. Kids travel free until they are four and they have allocated spaces for buggies, often by painting a huge buggy on the floor, as well as lowered access on the newer trams.
Sounds good, I hear you say. Yes, yes it does. But what they don't tell you about are the other things that happen to you with a buggy on a tram. So let me enlighten you...
This is, sadly, a true story. As a new mama I was still gingerly navigating my way around town with a brand new baby. Feeling all proud of myself, I was starting to get the hang of swinging my stroller onto the tram and bagging the prime buggy spot with the seat. Happily minding our own business, we were rattling back home from town one day when we got to the stop at the Rijksmuseum, AKA: Tourist Central. On piled the tourists in their usual fashion - dazed, confused and turning in circles.
Now, here's the thing. I have observed an unusual phenomenon in tourists when they get on the tram. They seem to think that the laws of gravity cease to apply to them the moment they step through those sliding doors. For everyone else it would make perfect sense, if you enter a moving vehicle it would be an awfully good idea to hold onto something when it starts moving. Not so for our tourist friends. They appear to think that they will remain safe and steady by simply using the power of their own minds.
So I am there, with my baby happily ensconced in his buggy, the tourists are marvelling at their "mind power" to stay static in a wildly moving tram, when one of them must have lost his focus and as the tram swung round a corner (as they are prone to do) he fell, full body, onto my baby.
And time stopped.
There was no screaming, not from me and, more worryingly, not from my baby. And then everyone started shouting. With the strength that only an enraged Mama can possess, I hauled him off my child and shoved him down the tram. With a now wailing newborn to comfort I didn't have time to look at him scuttling off to the front of the tram without so much as an apology. Fortunately the injuries were slight. Both of us were shocked and upset but the little one (by virtue of having the hood of his pram up at the time) sustained nothing more than a graze to his forehead where one of the struts of the hood had been pushed into his face.
So be aware, tourists do not know that they need to hold on when the tram moves. Practice your scariest "warrior mama" face and show it to them if they get too close.
Don't Touch the Buggy!
Not my story, but definitely one of my favourites. A friend was happily travelling on a relatively busy tram one day when she noticed that another passenger had taken up position by her buggy and was hanging on to it to steady herself as the tram went along.
"Ahem," said my friend, "would you mind not holding on to the buggy, it's not safe."
The woman removed her hand. All was well. Until she gripped the buggy again.
"Please don't hold on to the buggy," repeated my friend. The woman "tsk-ed" and removed her hand. A few seconds later the hand was back. My friend's patience ran out.
"Don't. Touch. The. Buggy!" She said, smartly rapping the woman's hand to make her point.
"You hit me!" said the woman.
"Yup," said my friend, "maybe now you'll stop touching the buggy."
The moral of the story, dear reader? Make your point, even if you have to slap someone's hand to do it.
(Disclaimer: Amsterdam Mamas neither advocates nor condones slapping people's hands to stop them hanging off your buggy. Use your discretion etc. etc.)
Stop, Buggy Jam! (Or How to Say "Move!" in Five Different Languages)
For convenience, mostly on the newer trams, the buggy parking spot is two thirds of the way down the tram right by the conductor. Who also happens to be the person you buy tickets from. Great if you are a Mama with no ticket, not so great if you are a Mama on a popular tourist route.
You see, everyone crowds around the conductor sorting out their tickets and then dumps all their luggage in the dedicated buggy space that you are trying desperately to reach. Your linguistic skills are going to come in handy here. Can you say "Move, please!" in five languages?
I Will Not Collapse My Buggy for a Dog!
Again, true story. Depending on the tram conductor, as we have mentioned, if there are already two other buggies on board they may or may not let on a third. Sometimes they ask you to collapse them. One day I was travelling, heavy laden with bags to the train station to catch a train to the ferry. Up pulled the tram and, wouldn't you know it? Two buggies are already in place.
I look pleadingly at the tram driver, I am weighed down with bags and we are only going a few stops. Please, please don't make me unload everything, I won't have time to reload before we get off.
"Inklapbare!" she says. (Collapse it!)
Then I hear, "yip yip!" I swing my head to the nearest buggy.
"Wait! What the... is that a dog?" I am incredulous. "Ik zal niet instorten mijn buggy voor een hond!" (I will not collapse my buggy for a dog!)
We stare it out for a moment. I am not backing down, my front wheels are on the tram. With a small nod, she concedes. Victory! We wriggle onto the tram and take up our position as the third buggy.
Emmy McCarthy is the Director of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas. She is a Mama, Entrepreneur and Connector on a never-ending quest for balance in her life.