A character tells another that they're like a son or daughter to them, possibly even "the son I never had."
This is common with mentors
who have a similar role to raise and educate their students as parents. A sufficently tight-knit Master-Apprentice Chain
can look like a multi-generational family.
A protagonist would absolutely kill
to hear this from their "Well Done, Son!" Guy
, if they've got one.
Compare Parental Substitute
and Happily Adopted
for situations where this could occur and A Father to His Men
for military examples. See also Like Brother and Sister
. Also Why Are You Not My Son?
, where a character has actual offspring or relatives they dislike, and compare them with someone that's Like a Son to Them.
Frequently a form of So Proud of You
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Anime and Manga
- In Naruto, the titular character has two specific relationships invoking this trope.
- The first is with his Academy instructor, Iruka Umino, who openly states that Naruto is like a little brother to him and becomes a Parental Substitute to Naruto in the first episode of the series. It's this influence in Naruto's life that has kept him from becoming a psychotic killer — like, for example, Gaara.
- The second is Jiraiya, who often treated Naruto like a grandson. This relationship is later confirmed after Jiraiya's death by Iruka, who tells Naruto that Jiraiya was always bragging about him and had mentioned multiple times that he thought of Naruto as a grandson.
- Of course, the more revelations about the backstory come about, the more Fridge Logic has the fans going, 'wait...Jiraiya was like a father to Naruto's dad, and is responsible for his name, and never appeared in his whole childhood?' 'Seriously, Naruto's dad took care of Kakashi after he was orphaned and Kakashi didn't appear in Naruto's life until the Hokage made him, and even then mostly ignored him?' Shinobi are bad at interpersonal responsibility. It seems to have something to do with a reaction to all those people dying.
- In Fushigi Yuugi, Tamahome's mentor Tokaki urges him to leave with Miaka and the Suzaku Seishi as the building they're in begins to collapse, all the while telling him to take care and that he cares for his protegee like a son. As in most other cases, Tamahome's father was already dead when Tokaki said this, but what's touching is when Tamahome then calls Tokaki "father".
- Lone Wolf and Cub: The very last panel of the series is of a fatally wounded Retsudo Yagyu declaring the recently orphaned Daigoro his "grandson of the heart".
- Madame Red, Ciel's maternal aunt, in Black Butler thinks of him like one. This would save his life and cost Madame Red her life.
- A rather strange example in Skip Beat! occurs when the main character, Kyoko, is given an "assignment" by an actor she's been assigned to help during his stay in Japan. She has to act the part of his son for a day or two, and by the end of the exercise they have bonded and he tells Kyoko that she can keep calling him "father."
- In the Dragon Ball Z anime, when Piccolo gives his life to save Gohan, he refers to him as "the son he never had."
- Bleach: In the Soul Society arc, Yamamoto tells Ukitake and Kyouraku they are like sons to him just to emphasise exactly why he's he's not simply going to whip their hides for betraying him but will instead obliterate them off the face of the earth.
- Master Makarov of the Fairy Tail guild considers all of the guild members to be his children (and one of them is his actual grandson). In one chapter, when Erza andScarlet is having a near-death experience and seeing the world as if she has died, he specifically mentions loving her like a daughter.
- This is the implied relationship between Izumi Curtis and the Elric brothers in Fullmetal Alchemist. It's especially poignant because their mother died when they were very small, and Izumi's only child died at birth.
- Apparently Norman Osborn thinks Peter Parker makes a better son than Harry.
- In the Ultimate Six comic mini-series, the group (Only five at the moment) break out of a SHIELD prison and Osborn says they need to look for 'his boy.' When Otto Octavius asks where Harry is being kept, Osborn's response is: "What are you talking about? My boy's name is Peter."
- Superman and Supergirl (at least the pre- and post-crisis Kara Zor El, and Linda Danvers...it's confusing..) have this kind of relationship, which is fairly reasonable, since he's her much-older cousin.
- When Superboy died in Infinite Crisis, an in-universe newspaper quoted Superman as saying he "felt like he lost a son".
- Perry White on a few occasions has stated Lois Lane was like a daughter to him.
- The Ancient One refers to his disciple Doctor Strange as "the one I am pleased to call son" or simply "my son."
- Alfred may officially be Bruce Wayne's butler, but he was always more of a surrogate father to him after Thomas and Martha's untimely deaths. When Superman asked him if he was all right after Bruce's apparent death in Final Crisis, he answered "No, I am not all right. My son has died."
- In a "Western Animation/He-manAndTheMastersOfTheUniverse" comic, when Orko is taken over by the Hate Stones, Man-at-Arms tells him that he thinks of Orko as a son.
- In Any Given Sunday, Tony says to Rooney, "You're like a son to me Cap, I'd fight for you till the day I die".
- Carbon Copy
Nelson Longhurst: Walter, you were like a son to me. But as you well know, having a son can turn out to be a bitter disappointment.
- In Epic it's implied Ronin might be growing to see Nod this way, but their mutual stubbornness gets in the way. Only reinforced by the fact that Nod's father was good friends with Ronin.
- Joshua Tree
Lt. Franklin L. Severence: I never said Santee was a friend. I said he was like a son to me.
- Kill Bill Volume 2
Esteban Vihaio: Bill is like a son to me.
- King Arthur
Cerdic: Raewald. You're second-in-charge now. Yeah, you're like a son to me.
- Please note that this is after he cut and demoted the former Dragon, who was his actual son.
- In the Tower Of Terror movie, this was the relationship between Sally Shine and Emmeline Partriage, her nanny. Partriage is shocked when Anna accuses her otherwise.
- Subverted in The Maltese Falcon. When Sam Spade suggests using Wilmer as a fall guy, the Fat Man refuses, using this trope word-for-word. Then, when Spade explains why they need a fall guy...
Wilmer, you were like a son to me. But I can always get another son. There's only one Maltese Falcon
- In Star Wars, the Jedi are forbidden to have families, but often the members of a Master-Apprentice Chain become close enough to be regarded as the children they can never have, or the parents they never knew. It's never outright stated in the films, but the Expanded Universe often expands on this dynamic. The closest instance of this trope in the films is an inverted example in Attack of the Clones, although Obi-Wan and Anakin's relationship slowly evolves into that of two brothers.
Anakin: "Don't say that, Master; you're the closest thing I have to a father."
- In Secrets & Lies Maurice and Monica treat their niece Roxanne as a surrogate daughter partly as compensation for not having any children of their own, despite their independently rather difficult relationships with her mother, Cynthia.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Restless"
Giles: Spike's like a son to me.
- To clarify, that was a zany dream. Spike is not like a son to Giles. Xander is. And Willow and Buffy are like daughters.
- When everyone lost their memories in Tabula Rasa and started trying to reconstruct their relationships, Spike decided he was Giles' son while Giles seemed to think Spike must be his younger brother.
- While never explicitly said, the relationship between the Mayor and his Dragon Faith definitely has the same father/daughter connotations, including a Villainous Breakdown of Papa Wolf proportions after Buffy put her in a coma.
- Neal and Peter on White Collar. Oddly, Mozzie is the first person to point out the father-son relationship between Peter and Neal. In the third season episode Upper West Side Story, Peter is posing as a man enrolling his son in a prep school as part of an undercover assignment. Someone at the school asks Peter about his son. Peter doesn't have a biological son, so he describes Neal instead. Peter's wife even makes comments about Neal being their kid.
"He's very intelligent, but impulsive. His moves tend to land him in trouble...Well, I wanna give him the best shot at life. I know it's gonna cost me."
- The Doctor Who episode "The End of Time Part 2" has a variation:
The Master: (to the Doctor) Oh, your dad's still kicking up a fuss.
Wilfred Mott: No, but I'd be proud if I was.
- Sarah and Maria in The Sarah Jane Adventures. At the end of "The Last Sontaran", Maria is leaving. Sarah Jane tells her she's losing the daughter she had always wanted. *sob*
- Supernatural: Even though he doesn't say it out loud, its obvious that Bobby loves Dean and Sam like they were his sons. He even tells Dean in the season 3 finale that, "Family don't end with blood"
- In a seventh-season episode, as he lays dying, Bobby tells the memory of his abusive father that he adopted two sons, referring to Sam and Dean.
Bobby: I adopted two boys, and they grew up great. They grew up heroes.
- On several occasions Al Bundy spoke to/of someone as "the son he never had"-at least once in front of Bud.
- In one episode of Mash, Colonel Blake tells Radar "You're like a son to me." What makes this even more adorable is that at the exact same time, Radar says "Sometimes I felt like you were my father."
- All but actually said in The West Wing with President Bartlett and Charlie especially when President Bartlett passes on to Charlie his family knife that has been given from father to son.
- He also refers to Josh as his son in "Two Cathedrals".
- Josh also tells CJ that Bartlet thinks of her as a daughter.
- Josh also has this kind of relationship with Leo, who is an old friend of his father's.
President Bartlet: He loved you like a son. You know that, right?
- Implied with Martin and Daphne on Frasier, especially when Martin becomes lonely when Daphne moves in with Niles and tries to get Daphne to promise to visit more often by using the fact that Eddie will miss her as a transparent excuse. Also given a Sibling Rivalry-like turn when Daphne gets jealous of Frasier's new girlfriend Claire because Claire and Martin dote on each other and Martin clearly wants Frasier to marry her and make her Martin's daughter-in-law.
Martin: Her laugh's just like music isn't it?
Daphne (wistfully): You used to think my laugh was musical...Remember, Marty?
- Larry Sizemore calls Michael Westen this in Burn Notice. Subverting the usual associations of this trope, it is not a heartwarming moment- Larry is a former Evil Mentor and Michael has daddy issues.
- In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Admiral Adama has repeatedly told Kara "Starbuck" Thrace that she is like a daughter to him.
- Law & Order: UK This is clearly how DS Ronnie Brooks feels about his partner Matt Devlin (no wonder, given that he royally screwed up raising his actual daughters, thanks to being a drunk) and he outright says this while talking with the mother of the man who killed him—"The police officer who died? His name was Matthew Devlin and he was like. . .MY son."
- Gaius and Merlin:
Gaius: Merlin, you're like a son to me. I never expected such a blessing so late in life.
Merlin: And you are more than a father to me.
- When Rizzoli & Isles have a seemingly-insurmountable split, Jane's mother Angela tells Maura "You're like a daughter to me too."
- Sarge uses this line in Red vs. Blue at one point.
Sarge: Grif, if you see Lopez, tell him I forgive him. Tell him, he was like a son to me.
Grif: I thought Simmons was like a son to you.
Sarge: No offense, Simmons. Lopez and I just understood each other better.
Simmons: Understood? He refused to speak English.
Grif: Yeah, and he ran away the first chance he got.
Simmons: And now he's trying to kill you with a remote control jeep.
Sarge: Ahhhh, what a little rascal.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Home Movies:
- Coach McGuirk says Eddie is "like the son I never had... or don't know about."
- Coach McGuirk's relationship with Brendon varies between being an Inter Generational Friendship to being somewhat like father and son. McGuirk even becomes noticeably jealous of Brendon's relationship with his actual father for much of season two.
- In the Sponge Bob Squarepants episode "Frankendoodle", Spongebob says this about his creation, Doodlebob.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Word of God says that even though Pinkie Pie isn't their daughter, Mr. & Mrs. Cake treat her as such. In fact, their actual foals, Pound Cake & Pumpkin Cake, see her as their funny older sister.
- In Motorcity, Kane seems to think of Mike Chilton as this when he worked for him and was rather upset by his Mook-Face Turn. He outright says this during the finale before throwing him off a building dozens of stories tall.
- Léon Degrelle was a Belgian fascist who joined the Waffen-SS during World War II. After the war, he claimed that Adolf Hitler said to him "If I had a son, I wish he'd resemble you" during one of their conversations. The veracity of this is still debated.
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Anime And Manga
- In the newspaper-comic Drabble, Norm makes his father a sundae, prompted this exchange:
Ralph: Wow, thanks, Norm! You're like a son to me!
Norm: Dad, I am your son!
Ralph: *clearly not paying attention, focused on eating* Oh, yeah huh.
- What Happens in Vegas
Jack Fuller Sr.: You're like a son to me.
Jack Fuller: Dad, I am your son.
- The Maltese Falcon
Kasper Gutman: I couldn't be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it's possible to get another. There's only one Maltese Falcon.
- In Sgt. Bilko:
Bilko:(lovingly spoken) Ah, Doberman. The son I never wanted.
- In The Three Musketeers and its sequels, Athos sometimes calls D'Artagnan "my son" in moments of great affection, even after he has a real son.
- An absolutely ridiculous example in Mastiff. Tunstall tells this to Beka . . . while trying to kill her.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: An untrustworthy slaver boasts that he will treat his latest set of captives — including Lucy, Edmund, Eustace Scrubb, and the young King Caspian — as though they were his own children. Lord Bern sarcastically replies, "That's likely enough to be true."
- Subverted in the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, where General Melchett tells Kevin Darling that he's "like a son to him" - not a favorite son, though.
"Lord no, more a sort of illegitimate back-stair sort of sprog. Y'know, the sort of spotty squid that nobody really likes."
- Parodied in Arrested Development when GOB refers to his son as "the father I never had".
- In the Doctor Who telemovie, the Master claims Chang Lee is "the son I've always yearned for." The Doctor is not convinced ("Oh, please.") — and moments later, the Master snaps Lee's neck.
- From In Plain Sight as Rafael is moving in with the Shannons before marrying Mary
Brandi: So I guess I'm like the little sister you never had, huh?
Rafael: I have three sisters. All little.
- Later deconstructed, impressively. One of the witnesses flips on his criminal buddies after they kill the "son he never had" . . . except the witness had a son, who he couldn't connect with or accept, and who was rightfully jealous of the son substitute. Their relationship is . . . messy.
- From a deleted scene from Flight of the Conchords:
Eddie: Bret, I like you. You're like a son to me. You remind me of my niece.
- On That '70s Show, Kelso wants to buy a great car from Leo. As they're about to make the final deal, however, Leo recalls that he had originally planned to give that car to his long-lost son and said that he couldn't bear to sell it, which Kelso can understand. Leo then immediately gives the car to Hyde, calling him the son he never had (as opposed to that long-lost son that he did have). Needless to say, Kelso was annoyed.
- In one episode of Wizards of Waverly Place between Max's conscience and his mom.
Theresa: "You're like the son I don't regret having!"
Max: "Oh, she means Justin."
- In Big The Musical, MacMillian sings of Josh, "My god, he's like the son I never had!" Josh notices a picture on MacMillian's desk and asks, "Who's that?" "That's the son I had," MacMillian replies.
- In one episode of Hey Arnold!!, Arnold makes friends with a baseball-loving millionaire who says he is "like the son he never had." Then Arnold finds out the man actually does have a son, and spends the rest of the episode trying to help the two of them find a way to connect with each other.
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the mayor tells both Brent and Flint that they're like sons to him, but it is clear he's being insincere in both instances.
"And without further ado, our town's hero and my metaphorical son, Flint Lockwood!"
- Clone High
Glenn the Janitor: Ponce was like a son to me, probably because he was my foster son.
- Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz's dad had a dog named Only Son that he considered like the son he never had, despite the fact that he already had a son (and would later have another).
- Norm is not this to Doof himself.
- In "Minor Monogram":
Did I ever tell you you're like the son I never had? Carl:
Really, sir?? Major Monogram:
Yes, it's because you're so unlike the son that I did have.
- In Dora the Explorer, the Marquez family treats Boots like one of their own, although Boots has two loving parents.
- Carl almost says this to Meatwad on Aqua Teen Hunger Force while trying to get his ticket to the Super Bowl, but reconsiders mid-sentence, resulting in:
"Ever since my son was...never conceived because I never had consensual sex without money involved, I've looked at you as a... a thing I could live next door to, in accordance with state law. Now are we going to the Super Bowl or not?"