Nothing prepares you for the first time your teenager gets drunk. None of the "teenage expert" talks I have attended, the books I have read or the multiple online resources I have scoured could have equipped me for dealing with the harsh reality of my son's inebriation.
A keen cricketer, Teenager No.1 plays for his college 1st XI and last week marked the end of a particularly gruelling set of matches against a stream of touring sides from across the Southern Hemisphere. After the final match the team had drinks in the club house before joining a celebratory party for the players and their parents. The mood was jubilant and the plan was for the boys to head off to a "post-party" party.
Now Teenager No.1 was one of only two 17 year olds playing in a team of 18 year olds, who had not only finished several physically demanding full days of cricket but had also completed their A'levels and therefore left college, so for them there was a lot to celebrate.
There are not many occasions to drink at his age other than at "gatherings" at people's houses and those are few and far between, but as always we had the chat with him prior to the party about remembering his age and taking things easy. Like us he has attended numerous talks on the dangers of alcohol. He has nursed his friends through some nightmare scenarios. We have talked openly as a family about drinking responsibly. He has never let us down before, but in this situation in particular we were mindful of the fact that his peers were older and he may feel pressured to try and keep up.
It was impossible to monitor his every move but as the night unfolded our worst fears were realised. He had drunk more than he could handle and despite us trying to rein him in discreetly we were temporarily rendered powerless. I found myself apologising for his exuberance but everyone just kept saying "Don't worry. It's been a hard season, they are all unwinding." Rarely, however, is a mother's sixth sense wrong. It was like watching a kettle boil and I knew it would only be a matter of time before the switch went. The challenge was to persuade him to leave before that happened.
In the end Mr MoT had to employ a mixture of gentle encouragement and brute force, supported by Teenager No.1's best mate, (the other 17 year old in the pack) and his parents. We agreed another party was unwise, but we needed the support of the best mate to get Teenager No.1 out of the door, which meant ending his night early too.
In retrospect I expect we have been quite smug until now, listening to the endless stream of stories about teenagers getting drunk at parties, bathing in the warm glow that it would never happen to us as our son knows better. What idiots quite frankly.
Hands up to having been there myself. I can remember my own humiliating drunken teenage experience like it was yesterday. The truth is that I knew it would happen, it was just a case of when and how bad it would be.
It was bad. Once the switch went, the demons were unleashed as his capacity for rational thought was eradicated. He railed against our interference. All he could focus on was that we had ruined his night. All we could focus on was getting him home. Before that, however, we had to endure the agony of a car journey with copious stops for "vomit breaks", turning a simple ten minute journey into an hour.
At home, he managed to lock himself in the bathroom, pass out near the loo and vomit some more. Between us we spent the night nursing him as he cried at how sick he felt and how he had let himself down. Sobering up was hard. Eventually he slept but not without one of us there to keep an eye on him. I never imagined that the young child I had nursed through various illnesses would, as a young adult, need us as much as he did that night.
The next morning his humiliation was complete as now fully sober we talked him through his loss of control which of course was the really scary part.
There will be those that judge us as well as him, but despite our best "textbook" endeavours for our son not to be one of those statistics, it does happen and there is no way to sugar coat it when it does. At some point in life almost everyone will learn the lessons of alcohol the hard way.
Our son was mortified. He apologised in person to everyone, backed up with emails castigating his own behaviour and his appalling downfall from grace. To be honest nobody saw the situation in the same way that we did. Many said they saw a young man who had conducted himself impeccably all season and was letting his hair down, but an apology felt right.
The really "bad bits" as I call them happened once we had left the party and only us and our dear friends who drove us all home, were privy to those. It is true that a crisis always tests friendships and shows which ones are the ones worth hanging on to and I am so thankful for the unswerving loyalty of our friends that night in our moment of crisis.
I will also be eternally glad that we were there to intervene and hate to think of the consequences otherwise. The real challenge now is for Teenager No.1 to learn from this and not make the same mistake twice.
As for us, well our confidence has taken a knock and we are naturally apprehensive. For now he is grounded as we feel there needs to be a consequence to his actions, more because of his treatment of us as a result of the drinking than of the drinking itself....he has surely learnt his own lesson there. Ultimately though we have to have faith in the son that we raised and love unconditionally and trust that this will be a one off.