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ON HER OWN TWO WHEELS

Sometimes kids don't want their parents to let go.
Published Apr. 13, 2007

Eight-year-old Skylar Brijbag looked both ways and pushed her Disney Princess bike across the street. She lifted the front wheel over the curb and began to go up the slow hill of an asphalt lot.

It was a Saturday morning. Brian Brijbag had taken off his daughter's training wheels.

He put his right hand on the end of the right handlebar and his left hand on the back of the seat. Then he took his right hand off.

"I'm just going to hold the back, okay?" Brian said.

"Okay," she said.

Now just his fingertips.

"And when you don't know it," he told his daughter, "I'm going to let you go."

A crawl, a walk, a fall. A loose tooth. School pictures, extra homework, and suddenly it's prom.

Skylar started to lean to the right. Then to the left.

"It keeps turning," she said.

The two of them turned around and went back up the hill.

"Ready?" he said.

She nodded.

Two hands. One hand.

Fingertips.

"Whoa." She put her feet on the ground.

"I can't."

"Yes, you can."

Brian learned from his parents in Staten Island, New York, on the hill of the driveway in front of his house. He went down the hill, and then again, and again, and then one day he kept on going.

Now father and daughter went back up the hill again.

She tipped to the right.

Again.

She tipped to the left.

Again.

Her feet hit the ground.

"You went like one whole parking spot," Brian said.

She got back on.

He put his hand on the small of her back.

"Stop letting go of me," she said.

"I'm supposed to let go," he said. "I can't hold on forever."

Brian looked at his daughter.

"Ready?" he asked.

Skylar put her hands on the handlebars. She tightened her grip.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.