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New Parent Nomenclature Problem
I don't call him daddy, but he takes care of things
When you pick me up on Friday, are you gonna bring me anything?
Oh, don't worry Dad, you know, it don't matter what we do
Cause I don't call him daddy, he can never be like you.
- Doug Supernaw, "I Don't Call Him Daddy"

A character is taken in by a Parental Substitute of some sort, usually of a more permanent variety such as an official foster parent or step parent, and they're considering calling them "mom" or "dad" despite the lack of biological connection. Agreeing to call them "mom" or "dad" will lead to a perceived level of closeness than simply calling them by their first name, but also may lead to the protagonist feeling like they're shunning their birth parents, who is definitely not the person raising them. It typically causes the protagonist tons of angst and is a handy device for exploring the familial dynamics between the characters.

Compare/Contrast You're Not My Father, Happily Adopted, and You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious. May be related to lingering feelings from a Parent with New Paramour situation.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comicbooks 
  • In the wake of Batman: No Man's Land, Barbara Gordon laments that she never did get around to referring to Sarah Essen, her father's second wife, as "mom" before she died even though she respected her a great deal.

    Fan Works 
  • Fanfiction for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic :
    • Fanfic sometimes take on the issue of how Twilight and Spike view each other. It is a sort of Parent/Sibling/Assistant relation. Official material seems to have settled on "Assistant" and he calls her "Twilight" in-show. In fanfic just about anything goes.
    • Twilight was mentored by princess Celestia during her youth. As such it is a common topic to explore just what their relation is. Mentor/student? Second mother figure? Princess/Subject? Friend? That Twilight herself got a promotion to princess doesn't make things easier.
    • A few fanfictions featuring Rainbow Dash adopting Scootaloo have brought up this question. Though often there Scoots sticks with calling Rainbow Dash by name.
  • In secooper87's Adventures of a Line Hopper series The alternate timeline daughter of the Doctor and Buffy Summers calls the Doctor her "father" as, biologically that's what he is to her, but calls the inter-dimensional being that raised her "Dad" and is very adamant the two terms are not interchangeable. After she begins to be raised by the main-universe Buffy, she calls her "Mom" although had to remind herself to call her that for sometime. A lot of times she'll start to call out for "Buf-I mean-Mom"
  • In the Emergency! fic "Lost and Found'', Roy and Joanne are mama and papa to John's infant daughter Melissa, intending to adopt her after John is abducted and feared dead and her mother doesn't want her. They show her pictures of John and she recognizes him as dada when he is found and brought home. In the sequel, "Reclamation", a psychiatrist tells the couple to find a new designation as John takes his place as the baby's father. The Honorary Uncle thing doesn't work, though, and they end up remaining Mama Joanne and Papa Roy.
  • In a now-deleted The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan / Winx Club crossover fic, Anne Chan was so close to her deceased mother that she refuses to call her stepmother her mother and even screams at Layla for accidentally referring to her as such. In the previous crossover, a sign that Alan was under the enemy's control was him accidentally saying "mom" instead of his stepmother's first name. (Though another Chan Clan fic also explains that Scooter and Mimi are the only ones who call her "mom" due to the rest being old enough to remember their birth mother.)

    Live Action Film 
  • In The Sand Lot main character Scotty's mother had just married a new man he doesn't connect with off the bat. After gaining new friends and learning about baseball, he begins to find some more common ground with him and says in the closing narration he soon had no problem calling him "dad".
  • Step Brothers plays this for laughs.
    Brennan: I'm not gonna call him Dad.
    Nancy: Brennan, you're 39 years old. I wouldn't expect you to call him Dad.
    Brennan: Well I'm not going to, *ever*! Even if there's a fire!
  • Shaun of the Dead has the recurring line, "He's not my dad, he's my stepdad" from Shaun about his stepfather Phillip. It stems from Shaun viewing Phillip as a Jerk Ass, rather than the Jerk with a Heart of Gold he is. Before turning into a zombie Phillip tells Shaun he's always loved him and Shaun finally acknowledges Phillip as his dad-with out the "step-dad" qualifier tacked on.
  • In The One And Only Andy's new mother-in-law tells him to call her Mom, but his father-in-law (who doesn't especially take to him) won't let Andy call him Dad. They're "Mom and Tom."
  • Picture Perfect: While we never see Becca and her stepmother interact, Becca is obviously resentful since she calls her "the step-monster."
  • In Halloweentown Marnie's widowed mom, Gwen, meets the mayor of Halloweentown, Kalabar, and it's clear from their interaction that the two used to date. Marnie is currently angry at her mother, so she keeps bringing this up, at one point quipping that if the two get married, she's not calling him "Dad."

    Live Action TV 
  • In The Sarah Jane Adventures:
  • Diff'rent Strokes: When Willis & Arnold start living with the man who eventually adotps them, they call him Mr. Drummond. They eventually ask his permission to call him Dad, which he gives (even before he officially adopts them). The explicitly do not call him Papa, which was their name for their biological father.
  • All in the Family: We never see a flashback epiosde about how they arrive at this, but Mike calls his mother-in-law "Ma" (as does his wife/her daughter) while he calls his father-in-law by his given name.
  • On Sirens US, after Cash starts dating Hank's mom, he tries to get Hank to start seeing him as a father figure, suggesting several possible affectionate term that he could use.
  • Webster: the titular kid refers to the woman who adopted him as Mam. Because it was "close to Mom."
  • On Roseanne, David lives with the Conner family for a long time, during which he calls Roseanne "Mrs. Conner." In one episode, he admits to thinking of her as his mom, which she finds sweet; he asks if she'd like him to actually call her "Mom," and after a moment of thought, Roseanne quips that she'd rather her own kids call her "Mrs. Conner."

    Literature 
  • Earth's Children:
    • In Clan of the Cave Bear Ayla sees some Clan children using a special sign which means "Mother" and starts using it on Iza, who is deeply touched.
    • in The Mammoth Hunters: Ayla teaches Rydag, a Clan child raised by Cro-Magnon humans, some Clan sign language including Mother, which he then uses on the woman who is taking care of him.
  • Natalie's children in Catherine Anderson's Bright Eyes are officially adopted by Zeke Coulter and have no problem seeing him as "dad" due to their biological father not having been the best guy around. Isaiah even mentions this to Laura when the kids make an appearance in My Sunshine. On the flip side, as much as the Harrigan children love their new stepmother Dee Dee they never call her "Mom" or any variant. Dee Dee is pretty much nonplussed by this, knowing how much Frank's first wife meant to the family.

    Music 
  • Doug Supernaw's song "I Don't Call Him Daddy" is about the biological parent on the other side of this debate reflecting on the new father figure in his son's life now that his wife has remarried. In the chorus his son tells him
    I don't call him daddy, but he takes care of things/
    When you pick me up on Friday, are you gonna bring me anything?/
    Oh, don't worry Dad, you know, it don't matter what we do/
    Cause I don't call him daddy, he can never be like you.

    Web Originals 
  • In I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC, Harley Quinn hooks up with the Green Goblin and moves into his house, and Harry has this forced on him.
    Green Goblin: You know how you mother is about these things.
    Harry: She's not my mother!
    Green Goblin: Hey! You apologize to New Mom right now and make her a margarita!
    Harry: You're not even married!

    Web Comics 
New Child Left BehindParental IssuesOedipus Complex
Muggle Foster ParentsAdopt An IndexOblivious Adoption

alternative title(s): Call Me Dad Dilemma
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