Ride on, kid. I’ll be right back here.

by Janelle Hanchett

A few months ago, my fifteen-year-old daughter Ava was introduced to a mountain biking team. It’s a high school team.

She was gifted a bike, and started riding.

If you could see my face right now, you’d see there are already some goddamn tears in my eyes.

I wish I knew why this particular topic makes me so fucking emotional. I hate feelings.

Alright. Fine. I do not hate feelings. I am super well-adjusted and in tune with my emotions.

I merely prefer they refrain from attacking me at random.

She was afraid at first. She was nervous and rode slowly. She teetered and stopped often and “hated it.” Mac went with her. He went with her on every ride.

She remained unsure.

But Mac loaded the bikes on the back of the van and took her on rides anyway, week after week.

She rode with the team and Mac went along with them.

She was absolutely unsure.

A day came when Mac wasn’t available to ride with her and the team. She sat at the kitchen table and told me she didn’t want to go. She told me, “I have never done it without daddy.”

She rode anyway.


On the night before her first race, she was irritable and angry and frustrated and scared and pissed the fuck off that her family “made” her participate. We suggested she not do it. She hated that idea even more than she hated us in that moment.

She rode anyway.

She came in second to last, elated to finish.

We raved and cheered at her success.

A finish. An actual finish.

A week later she rode 8 miles to school on country roads. I didn’t want to let her go. I was sure she’d get creamed by a drunk farmer.

She rode anyway.

Now she rides every day and you can’t stop her from it. She rides without even thinking, and talks about how good her little brother will be since he’s going to “grow up riding.” She talks about turns and hills and falling and how it’s “no big deal” and she doesn’t talk about riding alone, or not wanting to race.


Six months later, she’s finished four races, and with the last one, she placed five spots higher than the races before.

But who cares?

No. I mean really. Who the hell cares.

She had me at the fear. She had me at the falls. She had me at the mud on her face and the blood running down her knees. She had me at her tears when a dog jumped at her on the street and she fell and ripped her clothes and had to ride home humiliated and angry. She had me at still racing. At still riding.

She had me at the beginning.


I suppose it makes me cry because this is what I’ve always wanted for my kids. I suppose what I’ve always wanted really, at the end, is that when life offers a chance to do some cool and difficult shit, that they give it a shot and see what happens and bloody their knees because it’s better than accepting what the world tells you you are.

I’ve always been so afraid to do “physical” things. There were athletic kids and then there was me. I’ve always believed myself to be “the intellectual but not athletic one.” The funny thing is, we said the same about her. She was kind of the two-left-feet kid, you know?

But her dad didn’t believe it, I guess, and neither did her uncle who gave her the bike, and neither do her teammates or coach, or little siblings who watch her ride, and the finish line? That fucking finish line didn’t believe it either, I guess, because it just sat there while she crossed it.

But mostly, it was her.

It was Ava who didn’t care. It was Ava who decided to define herself.
I wish I could tell her what her muddied, bloodied knees mean to me, how fucking gorgeous they are to my eyes, eyes that perhaps never believed that would be her life, or mine, or that such things were even open to us. To try even though you have no evidence you can do it. To try even though you’ve got no history of it, no vague inclination, nothing at all rooting you on except a person you care about who’s right there next to you.

To try, and keep riding, even when the glory is simply a “finish.”

Even when the glory is simply getting to the end. 

I held her as a newborn. I held her until she crawled, walked, and I now, I guess, rides. Right beyond the horizon of my dreams, to a place she’ll find.

I’m happy to hang behind. It’s never been mine to own, and the gift is getting left in the dust.

  • Annie

    Go Ava!

  • Rose

    Oh my yes – My wish for all of them is ” fly high baby girl!” I’m elated ( and sad, but mostly elated) as I watch them do and try things I had never dreamed of for them! <3

  • Maureen Wanket

    “That fucking finish line didn’t believe it either, I guess, because it just sat there while she crossed it.”

    This is perfection. Thank you.

    • Rachael

      Yes! I loved this line as well!

  • Catherine Gillespie

    That’s some beautiful writing (I don’t mean I’m not inspired by the subject – I am); but “Right beyond the horizon of my dreams” is simply splendid

  • Annette

    Your writing is absolutely breathtaking. I hope you truly understand what a special human being you are. Thank you for this and all your posts. Please don’t stop.

  • Sammy

    Beautifully said again Janelle.

  • Spenser Coates

    Yea Ava!!!! Mazel Tov!!!! Thank you Janelle for writing such a wonderful piece.

  • Donita

    I love this with all my heart.

  • Elaine

    My God Janelle, so beautiful. I have been wavering on whether I should encourage mine to keep riding or if I should just accept that it’s “not her thing.” I think I’ll push her a little bit harder. I’ve also talked myself into and then back out of training for a marathon with my son. You just talked me back in. Perfect timing, perfect words.

  • Agata

    Go Ava!!! You fucking GO!!
    I’m so proud of her, and I’m just an internet nobody, mama, you must be just about exploding

  • Penelope

    What an amazing kid. I wish I could have been like that instead of letting fear stop me. Well done, Ava – and well done, mama. x

  • Coco

    So proud of you Ava!

  • beth

    So beautiful.. tears and my heart has swollen. I only want this for my son too. To try, not to be the best, not care what others think, just do it because you can.

  • Keli

    Yeah yeah yeah! Go Ava!

  • Melody

    Oh, you’ve got me crying now too. Happy for your daughter, who I’ve never even met, and inspired to try something new with MY two left feet!

  • Danielle

    “I hate feelings.
    Alright. Fine. I do not hate feelings. I am super well-adjusted and in tune with my emotions.
    I merely prefer they refrain from attacking me at random.”
    If you figure this out PLEASE share! Such a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing your heart! Way to go Ava!

  • Heather Bowden

    Beautiful just fucking beautiful

  • Trish

    Sitting in a restaurant for lunch and trying to keep the tears from falling down my face. This one got me because I’m going through this exact experience with my daughter and her Dad. This is fucking gorgeous, thank you.

  • aoc


  • Elaine

    This was one of your better ones Janelle. Well, in my opinion. I’m crying too.

  • MamieJane

    Oh My God,I love this.

  • Joyce Stohlmann

    Love this, Janelle! Really reminds me of Katie running Cross Country at Ursuline. She joined the team because her dad ran cross country and usually finished last or close to it. But boy were we proud of her (still am, for that matter)!

  • Atrebla

    Birthing a babygirl this next week(ish) and super psyched at the many many things she could do…like have a little Ava in her!

  • Oana

    My spindly, tiny daughter is a goalie in a hockey team of boys. This is making me tear up because it’s all the feels I’ve been having as I watch her play… you articulate everything that’s jumbled into my messy heart and mind. You write SO GOOD!!!

  • Samantha

    I just wanted to say that this article gave me hope for myself and my children. I’m trying to instill the same gumption and attitude of never giving up, even if it sucks, in my kids. Incidentally, my Ava (2 yrs) is kind of named after your Ava. I was in the hospital and we could not think of a name for my new baby girl. I know I was reading this blog and maybe one of the posts about your Ava growing up I blurted out “What about Ava?” And now I have my own fearless Ava.

  • MaryEl

    Badass women rock! I love this post and love the muddy bloody knees. That should be a poster!

  • Ellen

    This resonates personally, and as a mother. Love and tears. Thank you for writing this.

  • Alice

    God, I love reading your stuff. Thanks for sharing. We need more you in the world.

  • Michelle

    Beautiful. Wow, just beautiful. My heart swelled and I teared reading this.

  • Megan

    This is AWESOME!!!

  • Renee

    What beautiful words! To have the words flow with such ease is truly a God-given gift! I believe this is your best one yet!

  • Emily

    I’m super impressed with her for another reason, also, which is that 15 is more than plenty old enough to decide that things that scare you are out of reach forever, and she didn’t do that even a little bit. I remember going through the same thing at about 9 or so, and I was already aware that “all” my friends had learned to ride a long time ago and, at the start, I had a strong voice reminding me that “it’s okay to give up; maybe you just won’t ride bikes.” But my parents kept pushing me, thankfully, and it really didn’t take long at all before I loved it so much you couldn’t get me off my bike, and it was fun and freedom and all of that together. But you definitely don’t see 15-year-olds picking up things that other people started as little kids very often at all. It sounds like she’s still comfortable in her childlike-ness enough to approach a new thing like children do, focused on their own experience, and not feel like she has to act like an adult and say, “No, I don’t think I will. You go on; I’ll watch.”

  • Larissa

    Thank you. Once again I am weeping profusly as I read what you write. And Im not a weeper. You speak to my heart so. Your writing is a gift to me. A pure and perfect gift. You may never know how many people you touch, how many lives you alter for the better, yet please know you helped me for many years and I hope for many more to come. Thank you.

  • Beck

    AWESOME!!! Hooray Ava! Also, OMG THERE ARE MTB TEAMS!?

  • Angie

    Every time I read something you write about your kids I flash forward 30 years and think how unbelievably lucky your kids are that they will eventually read all of these beautiful tributes. To have these stories, written by their own mother, in their most real and truthful form is such an amazing gift. I know that writing is not everyone’s strong suit, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but to be able to learn about my parents, and their relationship with me and each other, through these kinds of stories would be absolute magic at this age (32). Especially now that my father has passed. I can’t foresee you losing popularity but even if you do, don’t stop writing these for them. They will always be your most important audience. They will cherish these memories of yours well beyond anything you could imagine, of that I’m sure.

  • Linda Grasso

    Absolutely hilarious and spot on. Yeah, I’m the wise older lady. And yes “enjoy it while it lasts” is on the tip of my tongue. (Nowadays I’m dealing with bongs and strange young women exiting sliding glass French doors with “handles” of liquor at dawn…but that’s another story…) But shit – I wish they’d had something like this when I was back in the crazy days of child rearing. I always felt like a nut job thinking “is anyone else feeling this exhausted and crazed and cranky?” Appreciate the brutally honest tone and sense of humor. xo

  • Elaine

    I really enjoyed your thoughts but I find the use of the f word rather off putting. Perhaps it is a generational thing but I would recommend your blog to my daughter’s and others if it weren’t for that. Yeah, I raised my four kids and they would find that offensive. Just my thoughts.
    Keep up the great work mothering your kids.

  • Austin McInerny

    Thank you for sharing you and your daughter’s story! As the president of NICA, the organization governing interscholastic cycling in America, I am ecstatic to learn of your daughter’s experience! We are working hard to grow school based cycling so many more teens (and their parents) can discover the life-long benefits of cycling! I hope your readers will be inspired by your story to start riding and to consider getting involved with a NICA league in their region. Please consider supportive our efforts by contributing a tax deductible donation at http://www.nationalmtb.org