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Seasonal visits with full-time love

Matt Anderson isn’t afraid to admit that in the summer he enjoys going to the hair and nail salons as much as fishing and camping, maybe even more; it’s all part of being the father of a 10-year-old girl.

“When she (Anika, Anderson’s daughter) shows up (in Brainerd) the first thing we do is go get her haircut and nails done,” said the 40-year-old dad who wasn’t sure he wanted kids until Anika was born and added now he couldn’t imagine a life without her. “It’s become sort of a tradition for the two of us that we both love to do — well one that she really loves to do.”

A full-time dad on a part-time schedule, Anderson cherishes the hair and nail tradition even more, only seeing Anika — who has lives with her mom 820 miles away from Brainerd in Montana September through May — during summer visits.

“It’s been tough since she moved out of state,” said Anderson, who added he was able to see her every day until she moved at the age of 3. “You try to cram a year’s worth of activities into a short window of time, so you’re pretty much on the go all the time while she is here.

“But at the same time, it’s summer vacation so I don’t mind at all.”

Keeping him more on the go then when she first learned to crawl, walk and run, Anderson said now that she is 10 it’s being sure she can see the friends that she made in the area that keeps him moving and toting after her.

But it’s those same friendships that she’s formed that Anderson said makes the transition easy for her in splitting time between mom and dad.

“She has a lot of friends that she has made up here (in Brainerd) and always seems to find a friend wherever she goes really,” said Anderson. “So when she visits, I have to factor that in too, that she is developing all of these friendships and needs to include that when she visits in the summer.

“It’s not really as much me-and-her-time only anymore, but she’s still here with me which is what really matters.”

And while being a single parent miles away has plenty of challenges, Anderson said he wouldn’t change it for the world.

“Not seeing her on a daily basis, not knowing how she did in school that day or the excitement of day to day things because if I don’t talk to her right away, like most kids, she forgets all those details, it’s always tough,” he said. “But the most exciting thing (about being a dad) is, when I see her for the first time in the summer and her running over with a huge smile on her face giggling.”

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).