Iroh: I'm sorry. I just nag you, because, well, ever since I lost my son ...
Zuko: Uncle, you don't have to say it.
... I think of you as my own.
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
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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, Naruto's official godfather, 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?' 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.
- Similarly Kakashi was a 14 year old with post traumatic stress disorder when Naruto was orphaned- hardly parent material.
- 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.
- Tokyo Ghoul gives us a particularly heartbreaking example in the final chapter. After Shinohara is left comatose with little hope of recovery, his wife finds Juuzou sitting at his bedside. While talking, she reassures him that her husband loved him like his own child. After she leaves the room, Juuzou promises to work hard for Shinohara's sake and tenderly kisses his forehead, showing that the former Psychopathic Manchild has finally learned how to care about others.
- Back to the Future fanfic may portray Doc as thinking this way about Marty.
- In several My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic stories, Princess Celestia and Twilight Sparkle are often portrayed as having a mother/daughter relationship. An alternate example would be when Twilight and Spike (whom she did technically hatch) have a mother/son relationship. Notable Examples: (All of which can be found on Fim Fiction.net)
- As in the game Dragon Age: Origins, Alistair and Wynne develop this relationship in "Shadow And Rose," and Elissa develops a gender-flipped one with Oghren.
- Code Geass Megiddo: During the eight years in which Lelouch had his memories suppressed, he developed this relationship with his mentor, the Knight of One, Bismarck Waldstein. After regaining his memories, he confides to Kallen that he will deeply regret the day they have to face off in battle, considering him to be the father he never had.
- Webwork: While on her deathbed, the Jorogumo Queen admits that she sees in Jade everything she could have ever wanted in a daughter.
- 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...
- 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.
- Near the end of Mystic Pizza, Leona uses this as a rationale for why she gives Kat the money to go to Yale.
Leona: I always meant to give this to my kids. You, Daisy, Jojo; you're my kids.
- 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?
- 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:
- 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 jokingly referred to her as "the son [he] always wanted." See it here.
- 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.
- 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.
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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.
- 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."
- 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 the Haven episode "Speak No Evil", Vince Teagues tried to claim Dwight Hendrickson was the son he never had, but Dwight was not impressed, and was annoyed by Vince keeping him Lock Out Of The Loop on several of the town's secrets.
- 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?"
- Vlad Plasmius, once he discovered Danny's ghost powers, wanted Danny to be his son. However, Danny refused since Vlad wanted to kill Danny's 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.
- In the first episode of Dilbert, the CEO is firing an employee:
CEO: Bob, you're like a son to me.
Bob: You don't have a son.
CEO: That's where I'm headed here.