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Like a Son to Me

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. Contrast I Have No Son.

Examples:

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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.
      • Considering the fact that Jiraiya is the writer of a series of erotic novels and frequents the Red Light District, it probably has less to do with Jiraiya having issues with interpersonal responsibility and more to do with the fact that Jiraiya is an irresponsible adult who shouldn't be allowed around small children, let alone allowed to raise a child at all.
      • That and he spent most of the time spying on the Atatsuki who are after people like Naruto and then later on Orochimaru and considering how recent a war was, he was plenty busy.
  • 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, Kyouko, is given an "assignment" to improve her characterization technique by a famous actor that she's been tasked 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 Magi - Labyrinth of Magic the Magi Scheherazade feels this way towards her subordinate, a young magician named Titus Alexius, who also feels the same way, saying that he considers her his mother. Given that Titus is her clone, one could say that they are indeed parent and child.
  • 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 Scarlet 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.

    Comics 
  • 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 MAD, there are a few cases of this, but given the tone of the magazine, it's often parodied or deconstructed by way of the magazine often showing the darker side of parenting.
    • In the "NYPD Blue" parody, one character says that his boss was like a father to him, but it's pointed out that the speaker was abused as a child.
    • Nicky and Rockhead in the "Rocky" parody
    "Nicky":I've always treated you like a Father would!
    "Rockhead": What? You t'row my stuff in the street... you yell at me in front of everyone... you make me feel like a stupid useless little kid!
    "Nicky": See! I told you I treat you like a Father would!

    Fan Fic 

    Film 
  • 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. It's 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 Vol 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...
    Fat Man: 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.
  • Combined with the Replacement Goldfish trope in The Thin Red Line, when Lt Colonel Tall is speaking to his Sergeant Rock.
    Tall: You feel like a son to me, John. [beat] You know what my son does? He's a bait salesman.

    Literature 
  • Alk and Ilke are treaten like they're his children by Sha-ra who'll protect no matter what in Phenomena.
  • Molly Weasley referred to Harry Potter (her youngest son's best friend) this way.
    Molly: ...and speaking as someone who has got Harry's best interests at heart—
    Sirius: (quietly) He's not your son.
    Molly: (fiercely) He's as good as! Who else has he got?
    • And he actually becomes her son-in-law.
  • In The Dark Tower, Roland feels this way about Jake.
  • In Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots, Bradshaw is surprised by the news about Vern because he was — this trope.
  • Although it never actually gets said, Halt from Ranger's Apprentice thinks of Will this way.
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, in the Back Story, John said, "You were my son" to Lucian before Lucian was dragged off for his crimes.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, Yellowfang tells Fireheart that he was like this to her - that he's more like her son than the cat she gave birth to, Brokentail.
  • In Dan Abnett's Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn novel Pariah, when Sister Bismillah tracks down Beta, she tells her she loved her like a daughter. After years of watching over her, she lost her in a night.
  • Ditzy Lavinia Penniman in Washington Square once thinks to herself that if she'd been able to have children, she would have had a son very similar to Morris Townsend, the man she's trying to match her niece Catherine with. Despite this and his being orphaned at a young age, the feeling is not mutual—Morris can't stand to be around her and only humors her flightiness at best in order to get in good with Catherine's money.
  • Played With in Animorphs. Rachel recalls an incident when her then-pregnant mother expresses hope the baby would be a boy, since the family already had two daughters. Rachel's father says he doesn't mind either way, since Rachel is like a son anyway. She's touched by that.
  • Although he doesn't ever voice the notion, in at least one of the The Cat Who stories, Qwilleran thinks that if he'd ever had a son, he would have liked him to be like Junior Goodwinter. He also mentally describes his feelings for Elizabeth Hart as such as he would have for a goddaughter or niece, having once saved her life.
  • Carlisle feels this way about the members of his coven in Twilight (with the obvious exception of his wife Esme), and especially towards Edward.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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, however, 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 lies 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 Colonel Blake's farewell episode of Mash, he exchanges gifts with Radar and tells him, "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." It makes Radar's devastation in the final scene, where he informs the rest of the cast of Colonel Blake's death, that much more gut-wrenching.
  • All but actually said in The West Wing with President Bartlet and Charlie, especially when President Bartlet 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 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?
  • JAG:
    • Harm's stepfather Frank Burnett tells him this when he visits his mother in "To Russia with Love":
    Frank Burnett: I figured out early on that I could never live up to your father in your eyes. I wasn't a Blue Angel. Hell, I never even wore a uniform.
    Harmon Rabb, Jr.: Frank.
    Frank Burnett: But although you never thought about me as your father, you're the only son I ever had.
    • From "Desert Son": General Williams to Lt. Boone, the only friend of the careless Lt. Williams that he approves of.
  • 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.
  • In 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). 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."
  • Melissa McCall is a substitute mother to her son Scott's best friend Stiles, whose mother passed away when he was very young. This is especially exemplified in season three when Stiles begins to show the same symptoms as his mother did just before her death. Melissa takes care of him, leading to the following:
    Stiles: Thanks, Mom.
    • She seems to have become this to Isaac, as well. When Isaac ends up in the hospital after being electrocuted, Allison is not allowed in to see him, despite her telling the staff that he doesn't have any family.
    Melissa: He's got us.
  • During the intro to the 1991 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, when Katie Couric entered the scene aided by a magician's box, her cohost Willard Scott referred to her as "the son he always wanted." See it here.

    Machinima 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • In Sam & Max, a talking baby cockroach hatches in front of Sam's eyes and thinks he is his "papa". Sam's response:
    Sam: Now I am, little champion...NOW I AM!
  • Played from an outside point of view in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, when Tyrell observes that King Paithos acts like an overprotective dad around his nephew Amiti, and even phrases it "he's like a son to you".
  • Maleficent, of all people, says this to Riku in the first Kingdom Hearts I. He knows she's lying through her teeth, but is still convinced he can use her instead of the other way around.
    • Eraqus' relationship with his students (particularly Terra) in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. In this case, it's the student who uses the word "father".
  • In BioShock, the Big Bad Frank Fontaine reminisces on the circumstances of Jack's birth and sending him to the surface as he rides the elevator to the final showdown. He confesses that Jack wasn't just his "ace in the hole" but also the closest thing he ever had to a son.
  • Wynne, in Dragon Age: Origins, develops this kind of relationship with Alistair, as revealed in party banter if you bring them both with you often enough. At one point she talks about her son, whom she hasn't seen since he was born (she and her child are both mages and The Corps Is Mother for mages of the Circle), and remarks that she would have liked him to be like Alistair. Turns out he isn't.
    • Similarly, Oghren can develop a relationship like this with a Warden of either gender; if the Warden engages him in conversation a lot and treats him with the kindness and respect he's hardly received in recent years, there will come a very sweet piece of dialogue in which Oghren (who keeps his helmet on so you can't see him blushing) will tell the Warden that he sees him/her like family.
  • Grand Theft Auto V has Michael de Santa and Franklin Clinton, two of the protagonists. Whilst Michael sees Franklin as the son he never had, Franklin looks up to Michael as a father figure of sorts and a mentor in being a much better criminal.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte tended to see his brothers (even his elder brother Joseph, at times) and younger friends like Marmont or Junot in this way. He took care of their advancement (sometimes against their will) and their marriages (again, sometimes against their will), expecting that they would repay him at least with gratitude. Not all of them did.

Subversions:

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    Anime And Manga 

    Comics 
  • 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.

    Film 
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • Tunstall tells this to Beka in the third Provost's Dog book. In the first book, he did say that he'd wanted a Puppy for years and it was only Goodwin's reluctance that prevented it, but the moment is pretty well ruined by the fact that he's just betrayed Beka and is 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."

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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."

    Music 

    Theatre 
  • 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.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 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":
      Major 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?"
  • Vlad Plasmius, once he discovered Danny's ghost powers, wanted Danny to be his son. However, Danny refused since he wanted to kill his biological father and marry his mother. Even more of a subversion when Danny destroys his chances of creating a Danny clone and continually fights him. It gets to a point in the show when he stops pursuing him and wants to make his life miserable and maybe kill him.

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alternative title(s): Like A Daughter To Me
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