Created By: Skylite on October 10, 2014 Last Edited By: Skylite on July 4, 2017
Troped

Always A Child To Parent

Adults tend to see growing kids as still widdle children and treat them as such.

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Trope
NOTE: Since this version of the YKTTW had more and more recent examples, and the other YKTTW appears to have been abandoned, all exanples from Always A Baby To Mom have been moved here.

Name Suggestions requested since tropers have said the current one is not descriptive enough.

That said, the two descriptions have been melded together as well and the trope is pretty close to ready to go now.

It is a parent's job (and in most cases, pleasure) to love and care for their child from birth until they reach adulthood and are ready to make their own way in the world. As part of this job, they must guide and protect the child as they learn and grow. This bond forms from the child's first wakened moments in the world and only gets stronger with the passage of time. Despite that, most parents understand and realize that they must make adjustments over time in how they treat their child, and what permissions and privileges they permit as their child grows up and begins to develop strengths and abilities.

Some parents have a hard time with the intermediate period when their offspring is no longer a baby or a little kid, but not quite an adult either. Some even have a hard time once the child is a full grown adult — so hard in fact that they literally cannot bring themselves to treat the offspring like anything but a small child, much to the child's dismay and frustration.

This is often portrayed through:

  • The adult's actions toward the kid are as if they were still a small child. This means changing manner of speech, up to and including addressing the child with Baby Talk.
  • A visual change of camera shot to the adult's face, but when the shot goes back to the child's face, they are a literal small child version of themselves, even though they may still speak with their current voice. In live action media, this requires swapping actors to a literal child for this purpose.
  • The parent continuing to treat the child as though they were much younger: giving them toys and other presents or parties suited to a much younger child.
  • Engaging in Amazingly Embarrassing Parents habits suited to a small child, such as licking a handkerchief and wiping a spot off their face, or putting a bib on them in public.

Thankfully, most parents only have brief and infrequent flashes of the urge to deny so vehemently that their child is old enough to venture away from the "nest" of home without parental oversight.

Sometimes, the trouble coping with the maturing of their child is also mixed with the unpleasant realization that they, the parents, are also getting older.

The trope is often played with in such a way that an adult whose job it is to care for multiple under-18-age kids treats them all like they're little children even when it's obvious they're older.

If the parent can't reign in their tendency to control every aspect of their child's life regardless of their having grown up, such a parent can go from simply denying their fledgling is ready to fly, and go straight on to being an Overprotective Dad or My Beloved Smother. If they have been told and told and told repeatedly to quit trying to interfere and act like they know best, this trope joins with Meddling Parents.

Compare The Baby of the Bunch when an individual receives this in a group where parents are not necessarily involved. See Everyone's Baby Sister for a person who has this issue with all the older people in their lives. Also compare Just a Kid.

Not to be confused with Not Allowed to Grow Up which is a meta-trope about keeping the characters the same age no matter how long the show goes on.

While it is probably tempting to describe such stories, no Real Life Examples, please.

Indices:

Rolling Updates are up to date as of May 14, 2017

Examples:

Advertising
  • There are multiple commercials that involve a mom or a dad trying to cope with their driving-age son or daughter getting behind the wheel for the first time.
    • There's one with a dad going over a pre-ignition checklist with his six year old daughter who turns out to be sixteen when he sees her with eyes that acknowledge she's growing up.
    • There's another with a boy of about four or five going through the various difficulties involved with owning a car. This one is a played with example, as the boy is still four when all is said and done, and in no hurry to grow up.

Anime and Manga
  • In one of the live action GeGeGe no Kitaro movies, the older youkai have failed to understand that Kitaro and Neko-Musume are well into puberty (and played by twenty-somethings) and continue to treat them like the children they're usually portrayed as.

Comic Books
  • A played with example. Batman — the Batman made Robin his Sidekick when the boy was only 8 or so. His acrobatic prowess meant he mostly kept out of trouble, distracting the villains while Batman did the heavy lifting. But in The '70s continuity, a villain was sharp enough to shoot Robin and hit him. Batman's trouble coping with the idea that his Robin — his son in all but name — had nearly died — that he forbade Dick Grayson from being Robin for fear of it happening again. Dick, already used to a life of costumed crimefighting, rebelled. This caused the two of them to have an enormous fight resulting in a falling out, and the creation of Nightwing.

Fan Works
  • From Bajor to the Black: When Kanril Eleya's family drops her off at a shuttleport en route to boot camp, her mother Shora tells her 17-year-old daughter "You're still my little girl."

Film
  • In the film The Baby, the mother and her grown daughters took her denial to an unhealthy extreme. She had her adult son who had to be in his 20s-30s, still in diapers and babbling like a baby, playing with rattles, etc. They even called him "Baby" instead of by name. The implication here is that the Baby was mentally challenged, but with treatment, might grow to behave and function closer to his correct age.
  • Father of the Bride opens with the family at the table. As they eat, a little girl of lower elementary school age announces that she met a man in Rome, and they are getting married. Her father is startled. "I'm sorry, what did you say?" Camera cuts back to the daughter, who is actually an adult, repeating joyfully, "I'm engaged! We're getting married!"

Literature
  • * The Hound of the Baskervilles has a Promoted To Parent variant. It turns out the escaped convict is the brother of Baskerville Hall's housekeeper, and she keeps smuggling him food and clothes since to him he's still her little brother who needs her constant supervision (and Watson notes that a man is truly done for when no female member of his family feels like this).
  • Appears several times in Discworld.
    • Polly Oliver in Monstrous Regiment has had to take care of a mentally retarded brother most of her life, so she ends up treating her lieutenant in the same way, telling him to spit in a handkerchief so she can wipe his face.
    • Glenda in Unseen Academicals, who is basically a mother hen to her friend Julia despite their being the same age and ruling over the Night Kitchen much like her grandmother did. As lampshaded by Vetinari, who says they go through life like mothers on a playground, wiping up faces, blowing noses and otherwise treating adults like children.
    • Also from Discworld, Nanny Ogg's cat Greebo is a vicious, foul-smelling, one-eyed, evil rapist of a tomcat that can scare off alligators, wolves and bears (unless they have cubs), but she sees him as the tiny kitten he was a very, very long time ago.
  • Early in Deryni Rising Queen Jehana and her ladies treat Kelson as if he were a child. One of her ladies finds Kelson conversing with Duke Alaric Morgan and chides him for going off by himself and making his mother worry over the danger, and she fails to address Kelson as king (a failure for which Morgan scolds her). After Kelson's masterful performance at Morgan's treason trial in council, Jehana bitterly reflects that he opposed her effectively, "not with childish taunts".
  • Deconstructed in A Song of Ice and Fire with Cersei and her son Joffrey. Because he was the firstborn child, male, beautiful, and first in line to the throne besides, she'd always babied and indulged him while neglecting to show the same affection to her next two children. As a result, he grows up a spoiled, cruel child, but nevertheless Cersei still acts like he is her faultless firstborn, and remains blind to his flaws. When he ascends to the throne, she seems to believe that she can use his status as king to rule the realm by proxy and attempts to control him, but he proves to be more uncontrollable than her biased view of him thought.

Live-Action TV
  • Howard's Jewish Mother in The Big Bang Theory seemed to think her little Howie was still in middle school by the way she talks about his "little friends" coming to visit and offering them cookies and Hawaiian Punch. The fact that he continued to live in his old bedroom until he got married and indulged her when it suited him certainly didn't help.
  • The Borgias: After Juan Borgia's death, his father Rodrigo is the only person present at his burial as he had made enemies out of all his other family members. He briefly dreams that Juan, depicted as a little boy rather than his present day adult self, is about to fall into an abyss and is calling to his father for help. This illustrates that Rodrigo always had a blind spot for his Bastard Bastard.
  • In Castle, this is a recurring theme in the relationship between Rick Castle and his precocious overachiever daughter Alexis, particularly as the series continues and she graduates from high school and moves out to go to Columbia. Castle is frequently shown having to remind himself that she's not a little girl anymore and he can't be an Overprotective Dad forever, and in one episode is is unpleasantly surprised to run into her at a con dressed in midriff-baring cosplay.
  • In a sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus two pepperpots talk about one of their sons, marveling at his progress growing up. Then the son enters and it turns out he's a fortysomething Government employee.
  • In one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, an investigation into a rape and murder hinges upon the detectives convincing a mother that her "sweet little boy" is actually a cold-blooded sociopath.

Music
  • In the song "Mother" from Pink Floyd's The Wall, Pink's mother's responses to her son's growing paranoia go way beyond protective and reach the point of Tsundere-ishness, as Mother promises to help her boy wall himself off from the world and carefully manage her son's love life so that nobody "dirty" will get through that wall.
    "Ooh, baby, you'll always be baby to me..."

Truth in Television
  • Lenore Skenazy of the "Free Range Kids" movement can attest to this.
  • It is sadly commonplace to see in the news, friends and family of a serial killer or mass shooter expressing shock and disbelief that anyone could think "that sweet little boy" could ever do anything like the crime they're accused of. Occasionally the parents will react with rage at the accusation and insist that their sweet kid could never hurt a fly.

Theatre
  • Jack's mom in Into the Woods is all over this.
    "You're still a little boy in your mother's eyes!"

Western Animation
  • As Told by Ginger:
    • Macie turns thirteen. Her parents completely forget her birthday. When she reminds them, they are appalled at having forgotten, and appropriately apologetic. They throw her a huge party: suitable for a five year old. Ginger tries to intervene, but Macie gets angry with her for doing so. In the end, her parents do acknowledge she's older.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "The Secret of My Excess": Twilight takes Spike to the pony pediatrician. He talks Baby Talk to an increasingly annoyed Spike (who at this particular moment is not even a baby dragon).
    • "Somepony To Watch Over Me": The Apple family has held a meeting to determine whether or not Apple Bloom is old enough to take care of the farm and the chores by herself for done day while Applejack and Big Macintosh make deliveries. Applejack can't cope with the idea of leaving Apple Bloom alone, and returns to the farm, where she commences treating Apple Bloom like she's barely any older than the baby Cake Twins. She descends into addressing Apple Bloom in Baby Talk. She baby-proofs the entire orchard, driving Apple Bloom to desperate measures to prove she is capable of self-reliance. She only snaps out of it when she sees Apple Bloom is capable of quick thinking in a crisis even if she didn't take the dangers of the delivery route into consideration.
    • "Forever Filly": Rarity drops in on Sweetie Belle without checking. Sweetie Belle takes off from the CMC and spends the day, but Rarity treats her like a tiny filly barely older than the Cake Twins. Meanwhile, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo's client seems to have the same problem: Zipporwhill hasn't realized her "puppy" is now a full grown dog and is too old for puppy toys. Thankfully solving Zip's problem in Rarity's earshot saves Sweetie Belle from having to explain, and Rarity acknowledges her sister has grown up since the last time they spent the day together.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Doofenshmirtz's daughter Vanessa is 16 and he's usually good about treating her as such. But in "Getting the Band Back Together" he throws her a party that's suited to a six year old. Only resolved with Perry's help.
    • And in "Skiddley Whiffers", Vanessa wants to go camping with a bunch of other teens. Doof doesn't want her to go because he's worried and protective. He sees her as about six years old.
    • In "Finding Mary McGuffin" the trope is played with. Doofenshmirtz finds a Little Mary McGuffin doll at a garage sale, and remembers how much little Vanessa wanted one and that she said if he got her one she'd be happy and he'd be the best dad in the world. He gives it to sixteen year old Vanessa, who is nonplussed at first, but when she thinks about it becomes very touched that he went to so much effort to find this thing for her to show her he loves her.
  • Teenage Fairytale Dropouts:
    • Fury is 16, and has an aunt Sugar Plum who insists on calling her "Sweet Cheeks" and throwing her little kid parties with ponies, puppies, pink, and sparkles. Fury doesn't want the baby parties, but also doesn't want to hurt her aunt's feelings. The Mean Girls eventually reveal what Fury was trying not to say, and Fury gets her rad teen rock-n-roll party in the end.
  • Steven Universe:
    • "Sadie's Song" has Sadie's mom Barb, who displays traits of My Beloved Smother as well; Sadie has an enormous pile of cutesy plush toys which she describes as "not really hers". Sadie's mother comes home and adds a bear with a cutesy bib reading "I wuv you woads".
  • In Kung Fu Panda, as Tai Lung leaps to attack his mentor and adoptive father Shifu, the kung fu master momentarily sees his renegade pupil as the adorable snow leopard cub he'd once been. The memory of baby Tai Lung makes the elderly monk hesitate and his ex-student brings him down.
  • Dr. Drakken, the major recurring villain in Kim Possible, has visits from his mother on occasion. Since he's taken care not to tell her that he's a supervillain, she believes he's a radio doctor. She also regularly smothers and lectures him as if he still were a child, which he tolerates for her sake.
  • In Family Guy, Death stalks the world claiming souls. But when he returns home, he's still a little boy to his mother.

Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • October 10, 2014
    SKJAM
    In one of the live action Ge Ge Ge No Kitaro movies, the older youkai have failed to understand that Kitaro and Neko-Musume are well into puberty (and played by twenty-somethings) and continue to treat them like the children they're usually portrayed as.
  • October 10, 2014
    Exxolon
    Depressingly Truth In Television - Lenore Skenazy of the "Free Range Kids" movement can attest to this.
  • October 10, 2014
    DAN004
    We already have a ykttw called Always A Baby To Mom.

    Also close to My Beloved Smother.
  • October 10, 2014
    Chabal2
    • The Hound Of The Baskervilles has a Promoted To Parent variant. It turns out the escaped convict is the brother of Baskerville Hall's housekeeper, and she keeps smuggling him food and clothes since to him he's still her little brother who needs her constant supervision (and Watson notes that a man is truly done for when no female member of his family feels like this).
    • Appears several times in Discworld.
      • Polly Oliver in Monstrous Regiment has had to take care of a mentally retarded brother most of her life, so she ends up treating her lieutenant in the same way, telling him to spit in a handkerchief so she can wipe his face.
      • Glenda in Unseen Academicals, who is basically a mother hen to her friend Julia despite their being the same age and ruling over the Night Kitchen much like her grandmother did. As lampshaded by Vetinari, who says they go through life like mothers on a playground, wiping up faces, blowing noses and otherwise treating adults like children.

  • October 11, 2014
    Skylite
    @Dan004 - so I see. Looks like the examples are pretty much overlapping too.
  • March 8, 2015
    HeroGal2347
    Also look at Let Her Grow Up Dear.
  • August 19, 2015
    Skylite
    The last update to Always A Baby To Mom was: 2014-10-10 19:09:00 and seems to have been abandoned.

    Since this one has more recent updates, any objections to me taking the examples from there, moving them here, and seeking hats to launch? I think My Beloved Smother and Let Her Grow Up Dear are Sister Tropes or otherwise Relational Troping.
  • August 19, 2015
    Chabal2
    Also from Discworld, Nanny Ogg's cat Greebo is a vicious, foul-smelling, one-eyed, evil rapist of a tomcat that can scare off alligators, wolves and bears (unless they have cubs), but she sees him as the tiny kitten he was a very, very long time ago.
  • August 19, 2015
    acrobox
    Compare The Baby Of The Bunch when an individual receives this
  • August 20, 2015
    Rjinswand
    This trope needs a better (more easy to understand) name.

    I think My Beloved Smother and Let Her Grow Up Dear are subtropes of this.
  • August 20, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Literature example:

    • Early in Deryni Rising Queen Jehana and her ladies treat Kelson as if he were a child. One of her ladies finds Kelson conversing with Duke Alaric Morgan and chides him for going off by himself and making his mother worry over the danger, and she fails to address Kelson as king (a failure for which Morgan scolds her). After Kelson's masterful performance at Morgan's treason trial in council, Jehana bitterly reflects that he opposed her effectively, "not with childish taunts".
  • August 24, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    I suggest placement on the Parental Issues index.
  • August 25, 2015
    StarSword
    Fan Works:
    • From Bajor To The Black: When Kanril Eleya's family drops her off at a shuttleport en route to boot camp, her mother Shora tells her 17-year-old daughter "You're still my little girl."

    TV:
    • In Castle, this is a recurring theme in the relationship between Rick Castle and his precocious overachiever daughter Alexis, particularly as the series continues and she graduates from high school and moves out to go to Columbia. Castle is frequently shown having to remind himself that she's not a little girl anymore and he can't be an Overprotective Dad forever, and in one episode is is unpleasantly surprised to run into her at a con dressed in midriff-baring cosplay.
  • August 25, 2015
    TonyG
    Howard's Jewish Mother in The Big Bang Theory seemed to think her little Howie was still in middle school by the way she talks about his "little friends" coming to visit and offering them cookies and Hawaiian Punch. The fact that he continued to live in his old bedroom until he got married and indulged her when it suited him certainly didn't help.
  • September 19, 2015
    Skylite
    all examples have been added as of September 19, 2015.
  • September 23, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    I rewatched the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and saw Dumbledore lampsahde this in conversation with Harry atop the tower: he starts by commenting that Harry needs a shave, then says something to the effect that he looks at Harry and still sees "the little boy from the cupboard". I don't have a copy of the book to hand, so are there any Potter fans who can say if this is in the book? This would be just before they go to the cave in pursuit of the locket.
  • October 25, 2015
    DAN004
    Well?
  • June 16, 2016
    BradyLady
    Father Of The Bride opens with the family at the table. As they eat, a little girl of lower elementary school age announces that she met a man in Rome, and they are getting married. Her father is startled. "I'm sorry, what did you say?" Camera cuts back to the daughter, who is actually an adult, repeating joyfully, "I'm engaged! We're getting married!"
  • June 16, 2016
    Antigone3
    One plot thread in The Silver Gryphon is Amberdrake and Skandranon having to acknowledge their kids are adults now and can take on adult responsibilities.
  • June 16, 2016
    DAN004
  • May 9, 2017
    NightShade96
    Compare Just A Kid
  • May 10, 2017
    Skylite
    ^^ Antigone 3 is this an inversion then, or did they spend the plot point treating their child like a baby until finally acknowledging?
  • May 10, 2017
    Rainbow
    Another example from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic is in "Forever Filly", where Rarity plans a day full of activities for Sweetie Belle that are all things Sweetie Belle used to like when she was younger, but has currently grown out of. In this case, it's implied that Rarity has spent so little time with her sister lately that she only remembers what Sweetie Belle liked when she was younger and isn't even aware of her sister's current interests/tastes.
  • May 11, 2017
    Getta
    "While it is probably tempting to describe such stories, it is literally optically impossible for a parent to see their teen or adult as a literal small child or baby, so no Real Life Examples, please."

    I don't understand this part. RL people thinking of their children as "always young" do exist. "Optically impossible"? Why are we going there?
  • May 11, 2017
    HeroGal2347
    ^ Maybe because of the visual aspect of the trope, described above? I personally don't think a visual representation should be necessary for this trope to qualify, but it might be one of those things of which it might be good to limit real life examples.

    Anti Smother Love Talk and Let Her Grow Up Dear could conceivably be related.
  • May 11, 2017
    Getta
    "A visual change of camera shot to the adult's face, but when the shot goes back to the child's face, they are a literal small child version of themselves, even though they may still speak with their current voice. In live action media, this requires swapping actors to a literal child for this purpose."

    This is just one of the portrayals. It's not the hard part of the trope. So the part about "No RL examples because of visual impossibility" should DIAF.
  • May 12, 2017
    HeroGal2347
    2x ^ Sorry. Didn't see I'd previously mentioned one of those tropes.
  • May 13, 2017
    Skylite
    Point taken, but the die in a fire is a bit harsh. I'll amend the write up.
  • May 14, 2017
    Getta
    Better name would be "Always a Child to Parent"?
  • June 7, 2017
    NightShade96
    Added Family Guy namespace and emphasis.
  • June 8, 2017
    Getta
    Again, compare Just A Kid
  • June 11, 2017
    Morgenthaler
    • The Borgias: After Juan Borgia's death, his father Rodrigo is the only person present at his burial as he had made enemies out of all his other family members. He briefly dreams that Juan, depicted as a little boy rather than his present day adult self, is about to fall into an abyss and is calling to his father for help. This illustrates that Rodrigo always had a blind spot for his Bastard Bastard.
  • July 3, 2017
    NightShade96
    What happened to launching on the 1st?
  • July 4, 2017
    AmourMitts
    Isn't this supposed to be launched already?
  • July 4, 2017
    Skylite
    Weekend isn't over yet. I'm going to.
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