Our three boys were extremely competitive growing up.
If we were mulching a customer’s flower beds, they would race bags of mulch from the back of the truck to the yard. They would even attempt to carry more than one bag at a time.
They raced to see who could get their chores done first, be first to finish their evening’s homework, and even first to the dinner table.
But, the depth of their competitiveness was really highlighted when it came to calling, “Shotgun!”
It sounds terrible if you’re not familiar with the expression. But, “calling shotgun,” means you get the privilege of sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle, next to the driver. As far as our boys were concerned, “calling shotgun” was a binding, legal contract. And, they “called shotgun,” every single time they even suspected they’d be in a vehicle.
All I had to say was, “Hey Guys, we need to run up to the post office,” and you would hear it screamed through closed doors: “Shotgun!” If Joe said, “Tomorrow night we are going to go to the movies,” you’d immediately see one of them slam their hand down, (like they were buzzing in on Family Feud), and yell, “Shotgun!”
Most of the time, Joe and I didn’t mind who sat up front. But, when we did need to make alterations to their seating plan, it wasn’t pretty. They were normally very respectful young men, but when I would veto a shotgun proclamation because their grandmother or another adult would be coming along, they would make facial expressions and sighs of disgust I knew they didn’t really mean. They knew the right thing to do was to honor their elder with priority seating. But, they were so accustomed to the power of calling, “Shotgun,” they wondered if it even superseded our family’s plan to respect others. As you can imagine, we made it very clear to them it did not.
It would, of course, be preposterous to allow our children to govern the family roadster by calling, “Shotgun!” But, how many times did Joe and I both allow our cravings to call, “Shotgun!” on our meal plans?
Over the years, I’ve made several attempts to prioritize my health. At no time was I under the misconception that eating snacks even the Standard American Diet referred to as, “junk food,” was good for me. I planned to reduce my sugar intake and stop leaning so much on processed and fast foods. But, then, a craving would shout out on the inside of me, “Shotgun!” and all my plans would take the backseat.
As an emotional eater, many times it wasn’t a specific food, but rather a specific emotion that would call, “Shotgun!” on my meal plan. I would be at work, having a great day or a horrible day and actually have a conversation with myself that went something like, “I know I brought a lunch I feel good about from home, but I owe it to myself to celebrate with this treat.” Or, if I was having a bad day, I’d make an excuse like, “I need/deserve this comfort food because life is not fair right now and this is my consolation prize.”
The third competitor shouting, “Shotgun!” was a specific time of day. Even before I practiced intermittent fasting, I didn’t want to be an all-day grazer. I even put magnets on my refrigerator to try and shame myself away from visiting it 14 times a day. I had one that oinked every time it sensed the door was opening. Still, when 4 pm rolled around and everyone was busy with work and homework, the timer in my mind would shout, “Shotgun!” and I would push right past the painful oink to the off-plan eating I would regret the rest of the evening.
I still sometimes have to remind those three voices that calling, “Shotgun!” is not non-negotiable. It doesn’t bind me to unhealthy eating practices which will derail my progress and leave me feeling guilty and unsuccessful.
My cravings, emotions, and vulnerable times of day are not in my driver’s seat, I am. And, I have the power to decide who sits where and who stays home all together.
You do, too!