I don't recall when it really started, but Alli began recognizing Mommy B and I's faces from a very early age. I don't know when the "typical age" for that type of thing is, but Alli certainly seemed to pick it up pretty quickly. Probably because she was stuck in the house with just Mommy B (and me when I got home from work) for close to 4 months before she went off to daycare. Since we didn't (and still don't) have much help around, Alli didn't really have too many different faces to learn those first few months.
I think she pretty much had our faces ingrained in her head by the time we started taking her to daycare. This was naturally a good thing because we could tell she knew when she was being handled by a "stranger" versus her mommy or daddy. The point I'm trying to make is that even from when I first started taking her to daycare, she would smile at me when I walked in to pick her up.
In the beginning, I would walk in to find her either lying on her back on the floor playing with a mobile-type deal with dangly toys for her to grab or in a rocker being fed a bottle. I would walk over and kneel next to her so she could easily see my face, and she would smile that big gummy smile I sometimes miss these days.
After a while, I would come in to find her sitting up in a Bumbo chair or lying on her stomach trying to crawl. I would lie down on the floor in front of her so when she lifted her head slightly, she would see my face and smile that big, jack-o-lantern smile that we used to think was so cute. I began calling it her "Pick-up smile".
Once she learned how to crawl, I'd walk in and she'd spot me from across the room and it was off to the races. She would crawl over to me and pull herself up on my pant leg as fast as she could. Sometimes, she would even grunt or let out an "Ahhh!" when she recognized me and began making her way across the room.
Now that she's walking, she makes a mad dash for me when I walk in. She gets to my pant leg and holds her arms up for me to pick her up. Her face lights up so big when I come in, it can be seen from outer space. This has become my new favorite thing. I look forward to picking her up from daycare all day long just so I can see that expression on her face for a few seconds each day. I don't think she's so miserable at daycare that she's elated to see me because it means she gets to leave... but rather she just loves us so much that she's just that happy to see me. Yesterday, Mommy B and I walked in to pick her up together, and she actually started crying when she saw us. She made a B-line for my leg, pushing other kids out of the way if they crossed her path. I'd like to think that she just missed us so much that she was overcome with joy when she saw us walk in.
The other reason I love picking her up is because I get to be the one to take her home. You can't help but feel like you're "rescuing" your child sometimes when you pick them up from daycare. You're returning them to their proper caregiver and their proper home - that sounds like a rescue, right?
Well, Mommy B is starting a new job at the hospital in a couple weeks, and her hours are going to change dramatically. She'll actually be working 5 days a week and will be getting off each day at 2pm - which means she'll most likely be picking Alli up each day on her way home from work. While I'm super-excited for Mommy B and her new position, I can't help but think about all the Pick-up smiles I'm going to miss going forward.
I still get one when I get home on the days Alli stays home with Mommy B, but they're not quite the same. When I pick her up from daycare, I feel like Super Dad - scooping her up in my arms and flying her home in the fast convertible (I haven't put the top down with her in it yet). It's become a time of bonding for us... even though she doesn't know it yet. I know I'm going to miss it, but I'm happy that Mommy B gets to experience it now. She's missed out on a lot of that time over the last nine months. After all, I'll still be taking her in the morning - so I have that going for me.
But I have to say, nothing beats that big ol' smile she gives me each time I walk in to pick her up from daycare. I know it won't stay that way for much longer, but I'm cherishing it while I still can.