I have an almost 7-year-old, an almost 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. My oldest has lost a few teeth, my youngest is now potty-trained. I figured there'd be a pause for a while with firsts and then we'd pick them back up with high school and learning to drive and boyfriends and girlfriends and crushes.

But then 2020 happened. And this year, we experienced a lot of unexpected firsts.

If I never hear the word "unprecedented" again it will be too soon. But I get why it was used over and over (and over) this year. We'd never done this before. We'd never parented through a pandemic. We'd never worked through a pandemic. Motherhood can feel isolating, but we'd never been as isolated as quarantine-isolation.

We've had to figure a lot out on our own while parenting because that's what parenting isyou just don't fully get it until you're in itbut for the most part, you can typically ask for help or for opinions or best practices or "I've been there before, too" stories.

There aren't many "been there before" pandemic-quarantine-mask-virtual schooling stories to be passed around our generation's parents. So… we've been winging it. We've forged ahead—together. We've been figuring it out, we've been learning a lot, we've been adapting, and we've been experiencing lots of firsts along the way.

Like, my kid's first Zoom meeting.

Watching the beauty, oddity, and hilarity of it all ensue was surreal. Muting, un-muting, shouting, random voices. Most times, Mom and Dad were both Zooming for work, too, so it was pure chaos. And while we may have almost failed Zoom kindergarten, we did give it our best shot.

Zoom school and rising COVID-19 numbers in our area contributed in part to our decision to embark on our first year of homeschooling.

We've learned a lot so far this year, we've gone on some fun outdoor adventures, and we've enjoyed the slower-paced lifestyle homeschooling offers us, but I think one of the things we've also learned is that the kids will be returning to traditional schooling next year. At my core, I always knew this would be a one-year experience, and I think when it's over, we'll all be both proud and happy.

This year also offered us a new accessory.

I remember taking pictures of the first time my kids wore their tiny black Converse sneakers or their first pair of earrings pictures after all three kids got their ears pierced. And now, I remember the first time their little face masks arrived and they tried them. We took a picture to document, but I don't need that one because there's a photo etched in my mind regardless of what's on my camera roll. Do you remember the first time you saw your kiddo in a mask? To me, it felt strange and a bit scary. Very real. Very much like, okay, this is actually happening.

It happened, and we forged ahead, masks in hand. Together.

We had birthday and holiday firsts this past year, too.

I was the first in my family to have a quarantine birthday in May which included a (you guessed it) large Zoom call with lots of people I love, takeout from one of my favorite local restaurants, and drive-by birthday wishes from my sister and niblings. This year provided our first birthday parade opportunity (with signs and balloons attached to our ride!) as well as our first holiday spent just the five of us (Easter).

We're preparing for our first Christmas Eve just the five of us, too, and while we're sad we can't be with any extended family this year, we're trying to find any opportunity to make it feel special in a new way. To feel, notice and expand the joy in our lives.

Because if nothing else, 2020 has taught us just that. How to feel joy, even among heaviness. How to search and dig for our happiness, even among chaos and challenges. How to deal, cope, and forge aheadeven when things feel weird or different. Sad or overwhelming. Because we're together.

These firsts taught us that (while we certainly didn't need any proof) can do this. We're good parents. We know what we're doing, even when we don't really know what we're doing. Because we're loving our kids through it, and finding our footing one second at a time.