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Doesn't Know Their Own Child

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A parent can't get details on their own child correct. (Launching January 31st)

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Zerukin on Jan 5th 2019 at 8:58:20 AM
Last Edited By:
Zerukin on Jan 31st 2019 at 7:52:26 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Elena: What is his teacher's name?
Alejandro: That's an easy one. Mister... Brother... Father Kin... Jin... Hoofer? (beat) So I have a bad memory! What does that prove?
Elena: That you do not know your own son. And even worse, he does not know you.

Parents often claim they know everything about their child, and they will do what they believe their child would like. However, there are moments when what they do for their child is not something their child is really into.

The child will quiz them on themselves and reveal that their parent doesn't know them as well as they claim. Finding this out will greatly offend the child knowing that their own parents don't know them despite having raised them.

When this happens, the parent will likely be in the dilemma of having to spend some time with their kid in order to actually know them. This can prove difficult if the child doesn't want anything to do with their parent anymore. If successful, the parent and child will develop a true bond and agree to spend more time together.

In the worst case scenario though, the parent will just shrug the fact off and continue to treat their child the same way they always do while never bothering to learn anything about them.

In some cases, the details that the parents believe actually were relevant to the child in question. However, the child has grown out of those bits, which requires the parents into having to get to know their child all over again just to find out their new interests.

Likely to be a result from Parental Neglect. May overlap with Amazingly Embarrassing Parents. Supertrope to Father, I Don't Want to Fight. Compare The Unfavorite, which may cause this. Contrast Parents Know Their Children. Not to be confused with Luke, You Are My Father, where parents meet somebody whom they find out is their child. Related to "Billy Elliot" Plot, where the parent may know of what their child is into while refused to accept it and demanding the child to be how they prefer.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Son Goku doesn't realize until it is too late that his son Gohan is a reluctant fighter who doesn't enjoy fighting like he does. Since then, Goku never expects him to be a fighter anymore, especially when he grows up to be a scholar like Chi-Chi intended him to be.

    Comic Books 
  • Robin: Tim's father Jack does not know his son's hobbies or interests and often just assumes Tim likes the things Jack's ideal son would like. For example his father thinks Tim likes playing American Football when Tim doesn't even like watching the game and prefers baseball, basketball, and skateboarding as sports.

    Fan Works 
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Mitsuki Bakugou is so busy at work that she thinks she knows more about her son's social life than she actually does. Despite being aware of Katsuki's growing ego, she still believes that he and Izuku are close when their relationship soured a decade ago. She discovers how wrong she is when Katsuki throws a fit while they're both riding in her car and has to ask Izuku if Katsuki has any real friends. After learning that he doesn't, she pleads with Izuku to not give up on him and admonishes herself for not being there for them.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In 80's slasher Cementerio Del Terror, Adam Ancira, the captain of police in town, despite being a doting enough dad, it's shown later in the movie that he's so busy at work that not only does he not know the parents and older sister (said sister being the sole guardian of one of the boys) of his children's friends, but he doesn't even know his children's friends themselves.
  • Irreconcilable Differences: While trying to persuade Casey not to file for emancipation, Lucy says, "You're only eight years old!" Casey answers, "I'm nine."
  • In The Legend of Zorro, Elena quizzes Alejandro on details of their son Joaquin's life to make a point that he's so busy being Zorro that he's being a poor father.
  • Matilda: Matilda has very neglectful parents. In the movie adaptation, they both think she's only four, and she answers "I'm six and a half. I was six in August!". In a later scene, her father even calls her "Melinda".
  • Searching utilizes this for drama- a father realizes that he doesn't know anything about his daughter after she goes missing.

    Literature 
  • Discworld: Moist von Lipwig is so forgettable his mother often came back from school with the wrong child, which greatly helps him as a professional conman.

    Live Action TV 
  • Blackadder: King Richard IV never, ever gets his son Edmund's name right and makes no attempt to find out if his wishes for his son (marriage, Archbishopric) are in line with Edmund's.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow's mom doesn't notice that her daughter got a haircut for months.
  • An episode of MacGyver (1985) has the title character judging a contest at a college where one of the participants is the son of a professor. The professor is very hard on his son who later loses the contest (because a competitor cheated). Both of these drive the son to build a bomb. During the stand-off, the son accuses his father of not really knowing him and even asks him several questions about himself. The father gets all of them wrong including the son's birthday.
  • Al and Peg Bundy on Married... with Children sometimes don't remember their kids' birthdays or even their names.

    Web Original 
  • There is a story on Techtales about a doctor's office complaining that a computer program refuses to input a birth date as given by the patient's father... 2/29/1982.

    Western Animation 
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters has Slickis genuinely unable to remember what activities his son, Ickis, likes.
  • Family Guy: Meg Griffin is ignored by her family so often, that there are moments where they don't even understand her. Such as when footage gets out about her kissing somebody, she says shes going to go eat peanuts, which Peter and Lois stare at her in confusion over. She tells them she's allergic. When they don't react, she angrily shouts they don't know anything about her.
  • The Legend of Korra: An implied version: Aang showed definite favoritism towards his airbending son Tenzin, taking him to visit Air Nomad temples and holy sites. Somewhat understandable in that Aang was the Last of His Kind and thus desperate to pass on his culture to the only other person who could understand it, but it couldn't have made his kids' lives easy. Tenzin himself wasn't really aware of it until he and his siblings were in their forties.
  • Chloe's mom in Miraculous Ladybug never gets her name right on the first try.
  • The Simpsons: Homer once hired a private detective to learn about his children.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Sadie has some issues with her mom not quite having caught up to the fact that Sadie is an adult now.
    • Connie's mother doesn't even notice that Connie no longer has lenses in her glasses until it's pointed out by Connie sticking her fingers through the frames.

    Real Life 
  • Alec Baldwin, in the infamous voicemail message he left for his daughter Ireland in 2007, says at one point "I don't give a damn that you're 12-years-old or 11-years-old..." She was 11 at the time.
  • Sara Hammon, raised in a Fundamentalist Mormon and polygamist community, told about how her father had to continually ask "What is your name and who is your mother?" to each of his children.

Feedback: 40 replies

Jan 5th 2019 at 10:08:45 AM

  • The Simpsons Homer once hired a private detective to learn about his children.
  • Steven Universe Sadie has some issues with her mom not quite having caught up to the fact that Sadie is an adult now.

Jan 5th 2019 at 10:28:48 AM

There is a story on Techtales about a doctor's office complaining that a computer program refuses to input a birth date as given by the patient's father... 2/29/1982.

Jan 5th 2019 at 1:22:10 PM

Live-Action Television

  • Al and Peg Bundy on Married With Children sometimes don't remember their kids' birthdays or even their names.

Real Life

  • Alec Baldwin, in the infamous voicemail message he left for his daughter Ireland in 2007, says at one point "I don't give a damn that you're 12-years-old or 11-years-old..." She was 11 at the time.

Jan 5th 2019 at 1:31:53 PM

Film:

  • In The Legend Of Zorro, Elena quizzes Alejandro on details of their son Joaquin's life to make a point that he's so busy being Zorro that he's being a poor father.
    Elena: What is his teacher's name?
    Alejandro: That's an easy one. Mister... Brother... Father Kin... Jin... Hoofer? (beat) So I have a bad memory! What does that prove?
    Elena: That you do not know your own son. And even worse, he does not know you.

Jan 6th 2019 at 2:04:15 PM

  • Also from Steven Universe, Connie's mother doesn't even notice that Connie no longer has lenses in her glasses until it's pointed out by Connie sticking her fingers through the frames.

  • For Real Life, I believe Narcissistic Parenting results in this? I remember a very memorable quote about a narcissistic mother who believed that her daughter's favorite food was something that the daughter was allergic to despite constantly being told otherwise.

  • Searching utilizes this for drama- a father realizes that he doesn't know anything about his daughter after she goes missing.

  • Aaahh Real Monsters has Slickis genuinely unable to remember what activities his son, Ickis, likes.

  • In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Willow's mom doesn't notice that her daughter got a haircut for months.

I wouldn't put this in Parents As People; I can see where things overlap, but there's definitely examples of this where the parent simply doesn't actually care about their child at all, or only cares about the idea of the child.

Jan 9th 2019 at 9:48:07 PM

  • The Legend Of Korra: An implied version: Aang showed definite favoritism towards his airbending son Tenzin, taking him to visit Air Nomad temples and holy sites. Somewhat understandable in that Aang was the Last Of His Kind and thus desperate to pass on his culture to the only other person who could understand it, but it couldn't have made his kids' lives easy. Tenzin himself wasn't really aware of it until he and his siblings were in their forties.
  • Blackadder: King Richard IV never, ever gets his son Edmund's name right and makes no attempt to find out if his wishes for his son (marriage, Archbishopric) are in line with Edmund's.

Jan 10th 2019 at 1:47:56 AM

^ That Korra example just sounds like Parental Favoritism

Comic Books

  • Robin: Tim's father Jack does not know his son's hobbies or interests and often just assumes Tim likes the things Jack's ideal son would like. For example his father thinks Tim likes playing American Football when Tim doesn't even like watching the game and prefers baseball, basketball, and skateboarding as sports.

Jan 10th 2019 at 6:17:05 AM

^ Parental Favoritism may cause this trope for the parent's other child(ren).

Jan 11th 2019 at 8:03:03 AM

Note to self: Make sure the page quote is fixed upon launched. Seems like the TLP doesn't seem like the double... what do you call those things just below the backspace?

Jan 11th 2019 at 10:23:17 AM

^ I fixed it. I never use the backslashes because the wiki is so inconsistent about applying them.

Jan 11th 2019 at 4:59:17 PM

I was thinking of launching this on monday, but then I thought "Maybe it would be better to wait until the end of the month so see if anybody else has examples to expand it further."

Thus I have decided to set the launch date to the end of the month. That is three weeks from now. That way, this has plenty of examples, and we can all go out to Baskin-Robbins (their ice cream is 1.50 per scoop on 31st of a month).

Jan 20th 2019 at 12:19:06 PM

bumping in case anybody has more examples before launch.

Jan 20th 2019 at 1:13:59 PM

Hatted. Anybody have any suggestions on what to index this on?

Jan 20th 2019 at 1:32:02 PM

^ Definitely was planning the character flaw index. All the others are definitely good too.

Jan 20th 2019 at 1:47:18 PM

The only other index I can think of that might apply is Memory Tropes, but I can't think of any indexes this applies to that would be likely to be overlooked.

Jan 20th 2019 at 5:30:46 PM

So... I just looked at all the Truth In Television pages, and none of them are labelled as an index. Is it supposed to be that way?

Jan 20th 2019 at 7:56:42 PM

Discworld: Moist von Lipwig is so forgettable his mother often came back from school with the wrong child, which greatly helps him as a professional conman.

Jan 21st 2019 at 2:53:21 PM

This has come a long way, and I'm surprised I haven't seen the draft before. But I'm not super sure this is a trope? The description (and examples) is aiming for "Parental Neglect but just, like, a funny instance AND THEN this really oddly specific scene". That does not a good trope make.

And the main situation for the examples is "parent tries to do something nice" + "child isn't into what their parent planned". That's more like a plot. I would suggest broadening this into more of a kind and comedic plot trope, that focuses on the relationship more and the parent as a flawed character less.

ETA: and examples that are just "Parent doesn't know X in life of child"? That's an overused cliche that has no actual meaning anymore. Show me a recent example that isn't cheesier than cheese and that has any actual relevance. These examples are in Chairs territory and should go.

Jan 21st 2019 at 4:19:02 PM

^ looks like you underestimated this trope's breadth.

Jan 24th 2019 at 6:30:07 PM

Final bump from me. Any more examples before launch?

Jan 25th 2019 at 9:48:02 AM

I've got an example!

Jan 25th 2019 at 12:03:36 PM

Film:

  • In 80's slasher Cementerio Del Terror, Adam Ancira, the captain of police in town, despite being a doting enough dad, it's shown later in the movie that he's so busy at work that not only does he not know the parents and older sister (said sister being the sole guardian of one of the boys) of his children's friends, but he doesn't even know his children's friends themselves.

Jan 25th 2019 at 12:20:09 PM

This has to be a neglectful parent, right? I know an instance where a loving father goes off on deployment, and his poor daughter undergoes harrowing misadventures. By the time the father returns, he can no longer recognize his daughter. But that'd be another trope, right?

Jan 25th 2019 at 4:19:49 PM

With some questions and a debate that has risen, I have decided to postpone launching this trope for a while until the debate has been resolved.

Jan 25th 2019 at 5:23:10 PM

^^ Well, Parental Neglect is a likely example, but not necessarily a requirement. How the father knows the daughter does have to involve some personal details though. If it is only by physical appearance that he doesn't recognize her, then it is Not This Trope. However, if said daughter has changed in terms of personality, interests, etc. (daughter may even let her father know that she has grown out of what he knew about her before), then it can qualify since the father has to get to know his daughter all over again.

Jan 26th 2019 at 10:24:13 AM

  • Irreconcilable Differences: While trying to persuade Casey not to file for emancipation, Lucy says, "You're only eight years old!" Casey answers, "I'm nine."

Jan 26th 2019 at 11:15:04 AM

  • Dragon Ball: Son Goku doesn't realize until it is too late that his son Gohan is a reluctant fighter who doesn't enjoy fighting like he does. Since then, Goku never expects him to be a fighter anymore, especially when he grows up to be a scholar like Chi-Chi intended him to be.

Jan 26th 2019 at 12:26:53 PM

Would Father I Dont Want To Fight and Billy Elliot Plot be sub-tropes, sister tropes, or just overlapping tropes?

Jan 26th 2019 at 3:06:30 PM

I'd like to make a case for Relius from Blaz Blue, but I might not know the specifics. At least the second game's omake session hangs a lampshade on it, saying that he's too absorbed in his "observations" (he's a Mad Scientist) to care about his son, Carl.

Jan 26th 2019 at 5:37:46 PM

^^ The first can definitely be a subtrope since the parent might not realize the child doesn't like to fight. This other one, it seems like the parent might be fully aware but refuses to accept it. Definitely related though.

If everything is all good and clear, I may reinstate that end of January launch.

Jan 26th 2019 at 8:57:07 PM

Live Action Television

  • An episode of Mac Gyver 1985 has the title character judging a contest at a college where one of the participants is the son of a professor. The professor is very hard on his son who later loses the contest (because a competitor cheated). Both of these drive the son to build a bomb. During the stand-off, the son accuses his father of not really knowing him and even asks him several questions about himself. The father gets all of them wrong including the son's birthday.

Jan 27th 2019 at 1:13:00 PM

Real Life

  • Sara Hammon, raised in a Fundamentalist Mormon and polygamist community, told about how her father had to ask "" to each of his children

Jan 30th 2019 at 11:46:48 AM

Fan Works

  • In Amazing Fantasy, Mitsuki Bakugou is so busy at work that she thinks she knows more about her son's social life than she actually does. Despite being aware of Katsuki's growing ego, she still believes that he and Izuku are close when their relationship soured a decade ago. She discovers how wrong she is when Katsuki throws a fit while they're both riding in her car and has to ask Izuku if Katsuki has any real friends. After learning that he doesn't, she pleads with Izuku to not give up on him and admonishes herself for not being there for them.

Jan 30th 2019 at 12:06:43 PM

^^a bit of help with that missing quote:

Real Life

  • Sara Hammon, raised in a Fundamentalist Mormon and polygamist community, told about how her father had to continually ask "What is your name and who is your mother?" to each of his children.

Jan 31st 2019 at 5:35:05 AM

  • Matilda: Matilda has very neglectful parents. In the movie adaptation, they both think she's only four, and she answers "I'm six and a half. I was six in August!". In a later scene, her father even calls her "Melinda".

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