As we come upon the holiday season, it seemed appropriate to tell a Thanksgiving story from a few years ago. Our family spent the day playing board games, watching a little football and taking a long walk. After an early supper at my parents’ house, we returned home and started our typical evening routine — baths, bedtime stories, and snuggles; the night was mundane until well, it wasn’t.

Having four young children within a four-year span meant chaos had become ever-present in our lives and yet, this evening was almost serene by comparison. The children were not screaming and yelling, jumping off the furniture, or tackling each other. There were no unforeseen accidents or injuries, like a child falling and cracking their head open on the toilet after getting out of the bathtub. While our house never seems ready for entertaining surprise visitors, this night was as good as any for unanticipated events.

The older two were already dressed for bed, my husband was bathing the baby, and I was putting away clean laundry when there was a knock at the door. After descending the stairs, I opened the door to face two police officers. My surprise was likely evident. “Happy Thanksgiving officers. What brings you to my front door on Thanksgiving?” I secretly hoped their visit was part of a new outreach program, but it was not. They informed me there had been a 9-1-1 call from our house fifteen minutes ago followed by a hang up and they were obligated to respond because someone might be in trouble.

Someone was DEFINITELY in trouble, I thought to myself. When a parent is uncertain, my advice is to simply pause and take a few deep breaths. This not only gives us a moment to think before we act, but it also allows the perpetrator to give themselves away unintentionally, which may guide our next move. The boys were old enough to know better and our youngest child was 2, which left my three-year-old daughter as the most likely culprit. Getting undressed for a bath, she poked her little head out the door of her bedroom to say “hello” with a big grin and a wave. She looked pleased with herself, but maybe a little too pleased.

There needed to be a lesson in all this, so I asked the officers into our foyer to have a few words with my children. I threw a bathrobe on my daughter and the three boys came to sit on the stairs for this brief educational opportunity. The officers reviewed the when and why for calling the emergency number. My children nodded in understanding, though my daughter still had a sheepish grin.

As the officers turned to leave, they reminded us they always check homes when hang-ups occur and if it happens frequently, there will be fines attached to not controlling our little ones better. My husband and I are still unsure of where she learned about dialing 9-1-1 for emergencies. It could have been at pre-school, a family movie, or even overheard in public. As she has gotten older, I have realized she rarely misses the details of anything. It is a valued quality except when in combination with the impulsivity of a three-year-old.

While there have been no more 9-1-1 calls and unexpected visits from police officers, this experience is another one of those parenting life lessons. Most of all, I am thankful the deputies “dropped by” when the scene was calm. If they were on my doorstep on any other regular evening, things might have turned out differently. I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving, and may you enjoy a day free of a surprise visit from your local Sheriffs’ deputies.