Recently, Lexi posted about a discussion she had with her foster daughters. One of them was asking about Lexi being her "real mom". Lexi's beautiful response was along the lines of "there are no fake families here".
Many of the children at my school are adopted, or in the foster care system. Many have been abused by their parents. It can be confusing, and hurtful, to think about certain adults being your "real" parents. If you live with your adopted parents, and love them, but other people continue to refer to this other woman as your "real mom", are you actually supposed to be with her? For this reason, I make every attempt to use the term "birth parents". It identifies them as the individuals they lived with first (even if they can't remember it), but doesn't imply they are the ones they should be with. It's not the best term out there - and if you have a better one, let me know! - but it works for me.
On the topic... one of my former students, who was adopted when he was an infant, used to explain his adoption this way: "My mom went into the room where all the babies were. She looked at ALL the babies (gestures to imply the room is large, with lots of kids) and out of ALL the babies, she chose ME." I thought this was a beautiful way to remind him how special he was, and how much she wanted him.
Recently, my friend and I were discussing various ways we were involved online. I was telling her about my (not really) long, storied past with online friends. She was also involved in online forums when she was young - I have met only a few other people like this, so it was wonderful to share a part of my life not many other people understand. As I was explaining my reasons for leaving, I said, "I had started dating Jordan, so I needed to get more involved in my..." Pause. I was initially going to say "real life", but that implies my interactions online weren't my real life. Since I'm writing to mostly bloggers, I know you'll understand: you form real relationships with people you meet online. Sometimes, relationships you have with people in "real life" migrate to almost strictly online! (hi katie!) That doesn't make the relationship any less real. So, I chose the phrase "offline life".
These two instances made me think about choosing words carefully. Words have meaning, even if you're using it unintentionally.
Have you thought about any unintentional phrases recently?