My stomach’s all in knots, and I’m suffering nonstop heart palpitations.

It’s been going on for weeks, which can only mean one thing: My 16-year-old has a driver’s license.

Don’t get me wrong — she’s a good, cautious driver who responsibly keeps that 11-year-old Toyota running at, or just below, the speed limit. My heart, though, hasn’t stopped racing.

I know, I’m a weirdo. Another licensed driver should be the answer to my jam-packed, unpaid Uber-driving schedule. But, I’m … a mom. I worry. When she offers to pick up a sibling, my crazy, overprotective brain wigs out. Isn’t that like the president and vice president flying on the same plane?!

The state of Arizona might think six months is plenty of time before turning a teen loose on roads still full of snowbirds, but I’d be cool if the driving age were jacked up to 25.

She’s been driving regularly to school and back, and one afternoon I feared the worst when my cellphone rang during what should have been her commute home.

“Mom, the car won’t start.”

Phew. Is that all? That I could handle.

Figuring it was the battery, I grabbed No. 3 from school and called my husband to make sure I remembered how to hook up jumper cables. It’s been a while.

“Red to red,” he advised.

Turns out, though, I needed to back up a bit — like, how do you pop open the darn hood? I flipped through the car manual and apparently whoever designed stealth planes got his or her start hiding Honda Odyssey hood latches in the deep recesses of the driver’s side, completely inaccessible except for the very young or the very bendy, of which I am neither. Meanwhile, No. 1 was also consulting her driver’s manual to determine how to open her hood, which made me realize a pretty big oversight in our family driver-training program. Whoops.

I did, however, locate the jumper cables in one of the 10 hidden trunk compartments. What’s up with that? Are gangsters Toyota’s primary demographic?

I zeroed in on the battery right away. Problem was, nothing on it was red. Huh. Very fishy. Heeeeeey, didn’t a letter arrive last week about some new, life-insurance policy taken out on me with a high payout? Curious.

Since I have more pride than brains, I decided not to call again just yet, but to forge ahead and zap that battery.

Oh, I zapped it alright. Zzzzzzzzt.

Sparks flew. I screamed. The kids screamed, but the parking lot full of high school students remained unfazed.

I sucked it up and called my roadside assistance sensei, Toyoda, again. This time he advised me to connect positive to positive. Ah, I did see plus signs.


The key in the ignition wouldn’t even turn.

Weird. The dashboard lights flashed, the A/C blew. I was flummoxed.

“Is the car in park?” Toyoda wanted to know.

Ooooohhh. Nope.

Chalk one up to operator error. You can’t put the car in drive before you turn the key and start the car. Rookie mistake, but also one a mature, experienced driver didn’t catch either.

I think we’re due for some mother-daughter bonding time — reviewing our car manuals.

Contact Kristen Cook at or 573-4194. On Twitter: @kcookski. The day she got her driver’s license, No. 1 insisted on driving for all the day’s errands. That night she was heard to utter: “I feel like all I did today was drive. I’m so exhausted.” Yeah, her mother wouldn’t know what that’s like.