KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For babies born during the pandemic, a world of masks and social distancing is all they know.
For a Knoxville mother who is raising her toddler and newborn in isolation, she notices their confusion with face coverings and how they interact with others.
Lauren Hmielewski and her husband are raising two boys in the middle of a pandemic-- 2.5-year-old Tyler and 7.5-month-old Logan.
"All they know is temperature checks, in public mask wearing, they don't know any different," Hmielewski said.
The baby only knows a world with coronavirus.
"One day, we're gonna tell him, 'back in 2020 you were born and this crazy pandemic was going on,' and he's gonna be like, 'Mom, what are you talking about?' I hope he says that anyways, and it will be moved on by then," Hmielewski explained.
Because of when he was born, he hasn't gotten a lot of socialization or play dates, out of safety.
When he does see people masked up at the park or grocery store, it's hard for him to comprehend.
"There's a lot of staring and a lot of lot of maybe at that look of confusion of like, 'what's going on? Well, what is that exactly on your face,'" Hmielewski reenacted.
A study from kidshealth.org says, when kids can't see a person's whole face, it's harder to feel safe. It's natural to feel scared.
Hmielewski said as a former teacher, what's concerning to her is speech and language development.
"When they don't get that exposure with your mouth and seeing the words, you know, come out, it's difficult for them to start to form their own language in their own words and sounds," Hmielewski said.
With fewer play dates, it may be harder to learn how to interact with other kids.
"Being the second child, he's seeing, you know, the toddler age all the time," Hmielewski said. "He's got the older brother to look at; however, when we do get to go to the playground, which is few and far between in these cold days, he looks around, and it's sort of like, 'wow, what are all these people? I've never seen the people, you know, that he's seeing out in public.'"
While experts don't yet know the long-term effects of how the pandemic is affecting children's development, they say parents should strive to keep a calm and nurturing environment at home.
"I try to look for the hope and know that one day it won't be like this," Hmielewski explained.
The CDC recommends children 2 years and older should wear masks when appropriate.