CoffeeTime: “FEAR, DISMAY OR PLAIN PANIC”
Ever sit around and wonder ‘Just what is the difference between fear, dismay or panic?’
Well, now that you have brought up the subject, let me give you my illustration of the differences.
Fear – when you have a tiny baby in your care. You are totally responsible for its safety and
welfare, its learned behavior, and the next few years coming down the road. That, my friend,
definitely falls into the category of creating fear. Fear for yourself, that you will do your job
correctly. Fear for the baby, as there is no way to foresee and totally avoid harm or tragedy. You
can hope for the best, decide to teach and train endlessly, but you cannot predict what will happen
in the conceivable future. Good and bad will inevitably appear and color the years that are coming.
The future can be just plain scary.
Dismay – The predictable “Oh No!” emotion of right now, when you are the proud but harried
adult in charge of an energetic, fearless, unstoppable toddler. You start your day with that two-
year-old fed, bathed and dressed. Your home is fairly tidy, at least the room where you have been
cleaning the last few minutes. But then you follow your instincts and rush into the kitchen where
Tommy Toddler has recently escaped. Only to find every last pot and pan pulled out and strewn on
the floor. The oven is preheating, thanks to his tiny fingers unerringly finding the Temperature On
knob. Following yesterday’s discovery that his favorite cereal is in the pantry, he has left the
opened box on the floor under the breakfast table with at least half the contents being gobbled up
by his ever-present sidekick, Penny The Puppy. Your toddler has somehow also learned to pull a
chair up to the refrigerator and is joyfully pushing the in-door water lever and watching water pool
on the floor at his feet. That, folks, is dismay. The present in all its glory.
Panic – when that other human in your house is a teenager. The childhood teaching days are
basically over, and you are required to mostly trust that you have done your job well. Now you are
on stand-by, watching constantly and waiting for the times when you are still needed for help.
Those days, or nights, when your defiant, confident, rebellious, I-know-it-all baby adult crashes and
burns. You live with the knowledge that it is probably going to happen, sooner or later. And you will
need to firmly correct some behavior, dry some tears, and give out a few healing hugs and kisses.
While you hide your panic behind a patient and loving façade. Ongoing anxiety, waiting for disaster
to hit – the panic stage of life for the parent of a teen.
I realize that this isn’t a guaranteed description of being a parent. But you have to admit, it defines
pretty accurately what those three emotions can make a person feel.