Commando Dad is the author of Basic Training, the bestselling parenting manual loved by Prince William. Here he talks military muscle and his new book Raw Recruits.
Tell us a bit about yourself
“I’m 43 years young, with three children: Samuel 12, Jude 11 and my little Tasmanian devil Liberty who’s 7. I joined the military when I was 17 and spent seven months in Iraq with the Marines, doing all sorts of crazy things like dodging sniper fire, disarming mines and getting rid of ammunition – very exciting, very scary. In all I spent about six years in the forces.”
So what prompted you to write Basic Training?
“I’d read so many books about pregnancy and childbirth that I could have delivered my own baby, so I was really clued up on that. But then when we actually came home with the baby I just looked at my wife Tara and said ‘what do we do now?’ And she said ‘I have no idea’. It was the first time I’d ever held a baby. We had no experience and we were living in America at the time, so we had no one to ask for any help or advice.”
“Samuel was a crier – he basically cried from the moment he came out until he was 18 months. The first six weeks were hellish, if you offered me a millions pounds to relive them I’d say no chance!”
“So I approached it the only way I knew how. With a set of Standard Operating Procedures for everything I needed to do – whether it was burping, bathing or bottle making. I lived by the maxim: Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Parental Performance.”
And how has the book been received?
“Really well! We’ve sold 40,000 copies in the UK alone and we’ve got 10 international book deals lined up. It’s just launched in America so it’s all incredibly exciting.”
Did you send the book to Prince William?
“No. The first I heard of it was a phone call from The Mail on Sunday’s Royal Correspondent. She asked me if I realised I had a royal fan and said Prince William is raving about your book to all his friends. That was a proud day. I did a few cartwheels round the living room! “
And your new book Raw Recruits is about to be published. Reveal all!
“That’s right. Raw Recruits is launching just in time for Father’s Day. There are nine chapters, beginning: ‘Raw recruits 266 days and counting’ – that’s the average number of days from finding out you’re going to be a dad to holding your baby for the first time after they’re deployed. This book isI going to empower to dad to say ‘Right, I’m on this 266 day journey and I can make a massive impact on this being a really wonderful time for me and my CO (Commanding Officer or Mum to be).
It covers ‘Actions’ – what you do under ambush, ‘Multiple Deployment’ – what you can expect with multiples and ‘Call the Medic’ – what to do if something’s not quite right. I’ve really worked hard to make it as accessible to dads – and mums! as possible.”
Be honest – are your books for everyone?
“When the first book was just out I did get some negative tweeting from mums and mummy bloggers. But everyone is entitled to their opinions. If you don’t like the military, then a military manual isn’t going to work for you.
For me, the important thing is presenting my material in a way that’s practical and accessible. I don’t want to have to read a case study or what my baby is statistically likely to do. I want to know what to do about my baby screaming the house down at 2am in the morning!”
And where did you source your material?
“I worked with midwives and a senior obstetrician for support. One of the great things in Raw Recruits is advice from the front line. I got 40 dads to answer the question “What would have been a really useful piece of information for you?”
That sounds very similar to our What I Wish I’d Known #WIWIK campaign…
“Absolutely! I got loads of these little gems of advice from the front line. They’re fantastic because I wouldn’t have been able to get away with saying what they said and I think that builds a lot of integrity into the book.”
One final question. If you had to share your own #WIWIK what would it be?
“I wish I had known that there is no right or wrong way. In reality, parenting depends on many things, including the temperament of your baby trooper. When I became a dad for the second time, I assumed I had perfected my skills – but Jude was having none of it. At the end of the day, as long as your baby is loved, fed and safe, you’re doing a great job.”
Head to kiddicare.com for a huge range of books from parenting manuals to board books including the best-loved Very Hungry Caterpillar.