How to be an Elite Dad or Carer, from Birth to Three Years (Basic Training)
by Neil Sinclair
Review by Pat Black
Note: this book doesn’t give you advice on the creative initial stage of being a dad. You’ll find that in a whole other self-help section.
Commando Dad was recommended to me by a fellow father-in-waiting on an NCT course, and I’m happy to pass that advice on here. Neil Sinclair, a former commando, has put together a tongue-in-cheek guide to parenting in the same style as a British Army training manual.
It may sound daft, but there’s a lot of advice out there on how you might feel when you become a parent. Off the top of your head, you could probably make a stab at a few of these: anxious, nervous, excited, happy, apprehensive, delighted, joyous, fearful… As Sinclair says in the introduction to the book, this holistic approach to emotion isn’t useful to a lot of men; it isn’t the knowledge they seek. This book doesn’t tell you how you are going to feel: it tells you what you have to do.
It’s divided up into helpful sections, and is concise and clear. There are lots of illustrations of Commando Dad in his beret along with his BT (Baby Trooper). It does tickle me to think of some doofus following the instructions to the letter and appearing in army fatigues to help with night feeds etc, but I don’t think this is a prerequisite.
Using army terminology, it takes you through the absolute basics: nappy changing and “bomb disposal”, preparing the base, or family home, soothing the baby when it cries, feeding, sleeping (and your own lack of it), basic routines, all the kit you’ll need to keep in good order and close to hand - in effect, everything you’ll need to know.
That’s not to say it treats fatherhood as the work of technocratic automatons. It does address keeping things on an even keel at home and on away trips, but calls it “maintaining morale among the troops”. Neat touch.
Whether you see yourself as Darth Vader in the Death Star or Lorne Green in the Ponderosa, Commando Dad is worth checking out if you’ve got a nipper on the way. Lots of it might seem like common sense, but the clear, concise dos and don’ts were very reassuring to me – the concrete world of activity, rather than the nebulous world of reflection.
Having had my own little wonder recently, the only advice I’d pass on to any prospective Commando Dads out there is: buy lots and lots of wipes.