It’s that time of year when our kids (if we can even call them that anymore!) head back off to college. My husband and I said our goodbyes to our daughter as she moved back to campus, and it was only a few days later as I was scrolling through pictures on my phone that I realized we hadn’t captured many images of her or our family while she was home.

We had a few pictures from a couple of events over the summer and the odd selfie that she snuck into one of our phones. However, we didn’t have any high-quality images to commemorate the time we got to spend with her while she was home.

I pictured her as she drove away in her car. Would she still look like that the next time I saw her? Like most young adults, she’s testing out her style and exploring her identity. When she returns home, will she still have long, brown hair? Will she have finally taken the leap and gotten that second ear piercing she always talks about? Will she decide to switch up her signature style of jeans and a band t-shirt?

More than that, when would be the next time we saw her? During her first year at school, when she was still adjusting to college life, she would visit us relatively often. We still missed her, of course, but we could rely on the fact that we were likely to see her at least every few weeks. Now that she’s starting her third year at university, she has an established friend group. She’s busy with her higher-level courses and is involved in activities and organizations. It could be Thanksgiving before she got a chance to visit.

I found myself wishing that I would have taken the opportunity while she was home over the summer to capture our family as it is now. We’ve always loved looking back at pictures from the past and seeing how our daughter grew and changed over the years. She’s in college now, but we know that doesn’t mean her journey is over. Quite the opposite, in fact. Often, it is during the years when they are first away from home that our kids seem to change the most. I want a snapshot of our family right now to be a part of the story she can look back on years from now.

Taking the time to truly capture those we love as they are in the moment is something that can be easily overlooked in all of life’s busyness. The twinge of regret I felt after failing to capture what may be one of our daughter’s last summers at home pales in comparison to the regret some must feel when they realize they haven’t taken family photographs in years.

Thankfully, regret often leads us to action. Soon after our daughter left for the new semester, I got in touch with our family photographer and set up a family photo session during the university’s winter break. (Being a photographer myself, I knew to call early because holiday sessions tend to book out very quickly.) We even have other family members visiting us over the holiday season, making it a convenient time to capture the whole family.

Whenever our daughter is home from college, we never take the time we get to spend with her for granted. Preserving the memories of our family the way it is right now is a huge part of us all appreciating what we offer one another. This year, when she’s home for the holidays, we’ll enjoy those precious moments with her just as much as we always do. But, unlike over the summer, we’ll be sure to take the time to truly capture and celebrate and tell the story of exactly what it is that makes her and our family unique.