Like a Son to Me

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.
Iroh: ...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 character 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.
    • Tsunade is third and only mother figure to Naruto, though she didn't care much for him at first, Naruto reminded her of her little brother Nawaki and lover Dan Kato due to his Wide-Eyed Idealist nature and dream of becoming Hokage. After assisting her and Jiraiya in fighting Orochimaru (where she saved his life) Tsunade gives him the first Hoakage's necklace and a kiss on the forehead for good measure. Though she finds his reckless behavior troublesome, saying he has inherited Jiraiya's antics. But when the fourth Raikage doubts Naruto, Tsuande gives him her undying support and how proud she is of him. She also motherly to Sakura and has passed down all her teachings to her
    • Kakashi is of course one as well, but was separated from his sensai's son due to the instance of the Third Hokage, Upon meeting Naruto when forming Team 7 he grew to like him, but found it easier to train Sasuke. After two arcs Kakashi, no longer held back in acting fatherly towards Naruto, often checking up on him in his apartment and making sure he was eating well. When Naruto learned his wind jutsu, Kakashi tried to give him a hug but Naruto only freaked out over his sensai being so weird. Towards the end of the series Kakashi tells how proud he is of Naruto especially in comparison to Sasuke.
      • Kakashi is also a father figure for Sakura, especially considering her actual parents never appear outside filler.
  • 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.
  • Dragon Ball Master Roshi at his best non-perverted moments is like a grandfather to Dragonball gang especially when compared to abuse Tien and Chiaotzu suffered at the hands of Master Shen and Tao.
  • In the Dragon Ball Z anime, when Piccolo gives his life to save Gohan, he refers to him as "the son he never had."
    • Future Trunks saw future Gohan in this light due to Vegeta getting killed off in the Bad Future, Trunks loved Gohan enough that his death at hands of 17 and 18 is what pushes him into becoming Super Saiyan in one of the biggest Tear Jerker moments in the series. Trunks is amazed to see Gohan alive in the present time, though he says nothing to about his bond with Gohan. Present Gohan is a big brother figure to kid Trunks too.
    • Uub sees Goku in this light, Goku even gives him the Flying Nimbus at the end of manga.
  • 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.
  • One Piece there are loads
    • Shanks is the big one for Luffy, not only inspiring Luffy to become a pirate but sacrificed his arm to save Luffy from a sea king and gave him his strawhat and told Luffy to give it back to him once he had made as pirate. When asked by Whitebeard how he lost his arm, Shanks said simply he made a bet on the future, this connection caused Luffy's marine grandfather to bear a grudge against Shanks for "filling Luffy's head with poison". During the aftermath of Marineford, Shanks asks his old rival Buggy to give Luffy's hat back to him saying it isn't time to return it yet.
    • Dr. Kureha never tells him directly, but bids Chopper farewell by saying, "Have a safe trip, my stupid son."
      • In the same vein is Dr. Hililuk, the first human to befriend the misfit reindeer.
    Hililuk: In a few moments, a monster will arrive here. He's my son. Please, don't hurt him.
  • 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's death was their motivation into becoming alchemists (and subsequently, learning under Izumi), 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.
  • Hiroko, Saki's best friend to Kousei, Saki's son, in Your Lie in April. Even though she doesn't make an appearance until The Stinger in episode 10, she's been established as something like Kousei's second mother and even refers to him as her son.
  • Played for Laughs in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War. Even though they're the same age Fujiwara refers to Shirogane as her son because she helped him with sports and music.
  • In the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh!, during the anime-only Virtual Nightmare Arc, the Virtual Ghost of Seto Kaiba's abusive adoptive father angrily tells Seto he treated him better than his own son.
    Seto: Thanks. For nothing.

  • 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."
    • It's similarly inverted: in the same series, Alfred finds a video will that Bruce made for him. In it, Bruce remarks that Alfred isn't like a father to him—he is his father.
  • Barry Allen considers Kid Flash and later the third Flash Wally West as his own son. The two are quite open about this, with Barry referring to Wally as his son frequently, to the point that his own kids were somewhat jealous of Wally. Barry even gave Wally his father's family watch as a high school graduation present to signify this. It became a key point in DC Rebirth, where thanks to their strong bond bypassing even reality altering powers, Barry was able to bring Wally back into world from Speed Force.
  • The Ancient One refers to his disciple Doctor Strange as "the one I am pleased to call son" or simply "my son."
  • Inspector Bloch really cares about Dylan Dog. Even more than about his own family, as it was shown in "200".
  • In a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic, when Orko is taken over by the Hate Stones, Man-at-Arms tells him that he thinks of Orko as a son.
  • 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
    • The title character and Supergirl (at least the pre- and post-crisis Kara Zor El, and Linda'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.
    • In The Death of Clark Kent, Martha Kent says Lois was "like a daughter to [her]" when lamenting her apparent death.
  • 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!
  • Persepolis: During Marjane's last visit to Uncle Anoosh a few days before his execution, he says that he would like to have had a daughter like her.
  • 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.
  • Garfield once encountered this in a week-long strip series, when a newborn chick imprints on him and calls him "Daddy." After daily jokes (such as the chick refusing to eat Italian food, and Garfield saying "NO SON OF MINE WOULD REFUSE LASAGNA!"), the fat cat sends the little bird away. The chick sadly says "Goodbye, Daddy"...and Garfield sheds a tear.
    • It's heavily implied that Jon loves Garfield and Odie as if they were his children (especially considering he doesn't have any of his own). In a lengthy arc, he's so distraught at the thought of losing them that he travels to a pet shop to try to adopt new animals.
    • Similarly, Garfield tends to treat Pooky, his teddy bear, as his baby. In early strips, he would panic whenever Pooky was "hurt" (an arm falling off, being unstuffed, etc.) and demand that Jon fix him right away.

    Fan Fic 

  • 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: Saxon war chief Cerdic makes a comment like this to one of his soldiers after he cut and demoted the former Dragon, who was his actual son.
    Cerdic: Raewald. You're second-in-charge now. Yeah, you're like a son to me.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Kings Row, kindly Dr. Tower tells Parris, his medical student, that "If I had a son, I'd want him to be as nearly like you as possible."
  • What Happens in Vegas
    Jack Fuller Sr.: You're like a son to me.
    Jack Fuller: Dad, I am your son.
  • In Sgt. Bilko:
    Bilko:(lovingly spoken) Ah, Doberman. The son I never wanted.
  • Storks: Hunter says that Junior becoming boss will make him like a son to him, even describing him as a "sonployee". This doesn't stop him from dropping Junior like a hot rock when he finds out that Junior accidentally made a baby.

  • Alk and Ilke are treaten like they're his children by Sha-ra who'll protect no matter what in Phenomena.
  • Harry Potter
    • Molly refers to Harry (her youngest son's best friend) this way. And he actually becomes her son-in-law.
    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?
    • It's all but explicitly stated that Dumbledore sees Harry as a son / grandson. This causes a lot of angst on Dumbledore's part, given he knows Harry is prophesied to fight Voldemort to the death. And that's without getting into Dumbledore's own family history. He spends most of book five keeping Harry at arm's length as a result, with disastrous results.
  • 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.
  • In The Infernal Devices, it's almost as if Will, Jem, and Jessamine were Charlotte's own children, except, according to her, for the part where they were required to love her.
  • in The Death Gate Cycle, Lord Xar often refers to his Dragon and protégé Haplo as "my son", and makes it plain that he feels a stronger bond with him than he did with his (presumed long-dead) biological children. Even as the series passes and Haplo becomes increasingly heroic while Xar becomes increasingly villainous, neither character is quite able to shake their connection and, fittingly, in the end Haplo is the only one who can convince Xar that he's become a tool of evil forces snap him out of it.
  • In Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell is a serial father. He loves his ward Rafe Sadler and frequently thinks of him as a son; they're closer than Cromwell is with his own son—whom he also loves, but Gregory is usually away and Rafe is more alike in thought to Cromwell. His nephew Richard Williams says that Cromwell is now his father after his own passes away and takes Cromwell's name, and when Cromwell's sister passes he takes her daughters into his household and acts as a father to them too.
  • Virgil of The Divine Comedy begins to address the Author Avatar, Dante, as "my son" by the time they reach Inferno's fire-blood lake. The address fits, since Virgil has to hold Dante's hand like a possessive father while guiding him through lust-tornadoes, suicide-forests, and less mundane challenges. By Purgatorio, Dante returns the sentiment as he begins to address Virgil as "father," right up until Virgil has to return to Hell while Dante goes to meet God.
  • 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 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."
  • Artemis Fowl: Artemis creates an AI and sells it to crooked businessman Jon Spiro. Later, Spiro notes it's like the brother he never had. A henchman confusedly says he thought Spiro did have a brother, so Spiro amends it to "a brother I actually like".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team. In "Lease With an Option to Die", the team meets B.A.'s mother. She loves Murdock and announces she wants to adopt him, to Murdock's utter delight and her son's (apparent) horror.
  • 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.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Jon Snow to Jeor Mormont, whose own son Jorah disgraced their family.
    • Jon Snow is actually Ned Stark's nephew by his sister Lyanna and Ned raised Jon as his own son.
    • Shireen Baratheon to Davos Seaworth, in the "like a daughter to me" version. Davos outright says this when he finds out that Melisandre killed Shireen by burning her alive, promising that he will kill Melisandre himself if he ever sees her again.
  • 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.
    "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."
  • Doctor Who:
    • "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.
    "I'd be proud...if you were my dad."
  • 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*
  • Shadowhunters Magnus has raised many downworlders in his long lifetime. He says this to Raphael, whom he has always taken care of, calling him son.
  • 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.
  • Married... with Children: 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 (2008):
    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.
  • Voyagers!: After a little while of time-traveling together, Phineas Bogg comes to see Jeff as being like his son (he actually says to another character during "Bully and Billy" that Jeff isn't his son, but he wishes he could say he was). While they don't quite have an average father/son relationship, he does try to teach and protect him.
  • 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.
  • Funnily enough inverted on Roseanne. After a rather uncomfortable discussion involving sexual dreams, David finally comes out and admits that he sees Roseanne, who adopted him, as more of a mother than his biological one. It's been clear for a while the feeling's mutual, and she's very touched by the affection.
    David: Do... do you want me to start calling you Mom?
    Roseanne: No. (grins) I want me other kids to start calling me Mrs. Conner.
  • In The Flash (2014), Dr Wells tells Cisco that, although he doesn't have children of his own, Cisco has shown him what it's like to have a son. He later tells Barry that he understands what Joe (Barry's foster dad) and Henry (Barry's actual dad) feel when they look on him with pride and love. In a somewhat tragic example, he refers to his former protege Hartley Rathaway as 'the Prodigal Son', suggesting that they also had this sort of relationship. Until, that is, Wells fired him because he realised something was going to go wrong with the particle accelerator.
  • The Golden Girls: When Rose is hospitalized for an esophageal spasm, Sophia cracks jokes as they wait for word. When Dorothy blasts her for this, Sophia admits that she's trying to hide her fear—"If something happened to Rose, it would be like losing one of my own children." She repeats the claim that she loves Rose like a daughter when Rose has a heart attack. Even though she doesn't say it, she clearly feels this way about Blanche too.
    • It culminates in the final episode when Sophia, who's planning to move away with a newly-married Dorothy, looks at a picture she's taken of Rose and Blanche and whispers "Good-bye, my girls..."
  • Hook from Neverland is a unique example. He starts the series by portraying this trope towards Peter. He took him in after his mother died and he did everything he could to protect him. However, as you can guess, he subverts this in the end and wants to put an end to the boy he used to care about.
  • In Horatio Hornblower, the title character arrives on Captain Pellew's ship with a bad reputation, but Pellew is satisfied with the result after testing his actions. From there he treats Hornblower as his protege, and his regard for the young officer grows to barely-concealed affection. The final telefilm has Pellew spelling it out in nearly explicit terms by saying to the newly-promoted Captain Hornblower "You know, Hornblower, it is very hard for a father to see his children grow up." (Hornblower, however, is a little oblivious in personal matters and it sails right over his head.)
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Though never said out loud, it's pretty clear that Mitchell Ellison views Karen Page as one after he hires her on to fill Ben Urich's shoes.
    • Despite trying to kill her on a few occasions when she goes rogue, Stick still has a soft spot for Elektra, more or less seeing her as his daughter. This ends up being his undoing in The Defenders (2017) as he hesitates when Elektra shows up to capture Danny Rand, giving her the opening to stab him to death.
  • The Punisher (2017): Frank Castle's friendship with Karen Page stems from the fact that she reminds him heavily of his late daughter Lisa. He thinks of Karen as what Lisa would've been like if she'd grown to see adulthood rather than be cut down by a hit squad in the midst of an attempt to assassinate Frank.
  • Iron Fist (2017): Harold Meachum acts at first like Danny is a better son to him than his actual son Ward, but it soon becomes clear that this is just an act.
  • 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 Locked Out of the Loop on several of the town's secrets.
  • In American Horror Story: Coven, Myrtle Snow, head of the Witches' Council, views Cordelia Goode as a daughter. Cordelia has similar feelings toward her, especially since her birth mother is Fiona, a Rich Bitch who only cares about herself—to the point where Cordelia's personal version of Hell is her begging for Fiona's approval and being cruelly abused by her. Myrtle and Cordelia's relationship makes Myrtle's death all the sadder: Myrtle arranges for her own burning at the stake to allow Cordelia's reign as the Coven's new Supreme to go as smoothly as possible. Among Myrtle's last words: " sweet daughter...I've never been more proud...
  • Shows up very early in The Nanny. Fran is calling Maggie, Brighton, and Grace "her kids" by the fifth episode, and her love for them is clearly more maternal than professional.
    • It's later inverted with Mr. Sheffield and Sylvia, Fran's mother, later in the series, after Fran has finally married Maxwell. When Fran is briefly hospitalized, Max and Sylvia rush to the hospital together, and he does his best to calm her down, calling her "Mom." Sylvia notes that he's never done that before, and he explains that she's been a better, dearer mother to him than his birth mother ever was. It's especially surprising because Sylvia's behavior borders on invasive and annoying at times, particularly when she shows up to eat the Sheffields out of house and home.
  • On Everybody Loves Raymond, Frank feels this way about Debra. In one episode, he tells her that he's always viewed his battles with Marie, Ray, and Robert as "me and you versus them." In another, upon discovering that his lodge brothers are treating Debra, who's been volunteering with them, as a piece of eye candy, he lets them have it: "This is Debra! She's not just some cheap floozy—she's like my own daughter!"
    • Marie and Debra largely avert this trope, especially because the former is extremely doting and controlling toward Ray. However, it's occasionally hinted that Marie sees Debra fondly; for instance, she's arranged to leave all of her recipes to Debra in her will. As Marie is a Supreme Chef, that's quite a compliment.

  • 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.


  • 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.

    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 Main Characters. 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.
  • Mortal Kombat X: Raiden mournfully expresses this sentiment towards Liu Kang and Kung Lao.
  • The relationship Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan share in the Uncharted series, which is fully explored in 3: Drake's Deception. Nate is actually not a descendant of Sir Francis Drake. Rather he's a kid who was given up for adoption by his father after his mother committed suicide and lived out his teenage years roaming the streets of Cartagena ("Nathan Drake" isn't his real name either). During that time he crossed paths with Katherine Marlowe and Sully, who was in her employ at the time. When things get more intense than Sully can agree with (mostly by virtue of having to save the teenage boy from being needlessly killed by Marlowe's goons), he opts out from her organization and becomes Nate's surrogate father in the process.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
    • Dorephan, King of the Zora, saw Link as a son back when they first knew each other a century ago, and he's understandably sad to find out the latter no longer remembers him. The fact that Dorephan's daughter Mipha had a Childhood Friend Romance with Link, which could have led to the Hylian being his son-in-law, is likely a major reason.
    • The Champions Ballad DLC revealed that Lady Urbosa was a close personal friend of Zelda's mother, and came to view Zelda as a daughter after the latter's death (even addressing Zelda with the same "little bird" nickname that the queen used to use).

    Web Original 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In the first season finale, Iroh tells Zuko, "Ever since I lost my son... I think of you as my own."
    • And once Zuko sorts out his issues, he comes to think of Iroh as his father.
  • 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.
  • 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?"
  • Danny Phantom: 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.

    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.
  • Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington. When Lafayette was wounded during the Battle of Brandywine River, attempting to rally the troops, Washington told the surgeons to treat him "as if he were my own son." Lafayette would later name his son George Washington de Lafayette.

Alternative Title(s): Like A Daughter To Me