Gray and pink


So this is what it’s like to be a Commanding Officer at sea.

OK, maybe not EXACTLY, but I think I’m starting to get the gist of it. Back in my younger days, we were under strict orders to notify the CO whenever things didn’t look right on the bridge. Even if we weren’t SURE we were supposed to call him, the doubt itself was a trigger to call the Captain – day or night.

That poor guy never got a good night of sleep, at least when I was on the bridge.

“Nice night.”

“Yep. Quiet too.”

“Almost too quiet. Think we should call the Captain?”

“Nah, it’s two in the morning and nothing’s wrong. Why wake him?”

“OK, if you’re sure. Pretty quiet though.”

BZZZZZZZ! “Captain? Are you awake?”

I don’t know how they do it, but amazingly, Commanding Officers continue to perform their duties brilliantly, even though they never enjoy a full night’s rest.

Having a baby is like that, except the pay isn’t as good. New babies sleep in three hour chunks, then they wake up. Then, they wake YOU up. After a few months of sleep deprivation, I have lost all sense of space and time. I can barely drive my car, let alone operate a multi-million dollar warship. My conversational skills have diminished to incoherent babbling.

The only reason we have survived as a species is because over the years, parents have developed coping skills to deal with babies who don’t sleep through the night.

One technique is denial.


Another is called “The Possum Move.” (Fake sleep when the baby cries, hoping your spouse will deal with it.)

A riskier method is the power of suggestion. (When the baby cries, announce “The baby’s crying”, and hope your spouse gets up without realizing what you’re attempting.)

None of these methods tend to add harmony to a relationship. Instead, it is better (and wiser) to wait for the Holy Grail of baby raising – the day the baby sleeps through the night. Young parents speak of the day in hushed voices, dreaming of it like a child dreams of Santa Claus. When the doctor told us that it was time to train the baby to sleep through the midnight feedings – and not get up – I almost cried.

So now I know what those Skippers go through, when their ships are at sea. My walls aren’t gray – they’re pink – but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel their pain. If they are a “little short” with you, or don’t laugh at the funniest joke you’ve ever told, don’t hold it against them. They just need some sleep.

But not on my watch.


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