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Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity

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When your dad is Goofy...

"Guys, I don't suppose this is some kind of contrived paint-by-numbers adventure that's designed to force an emotional bond between me and my emotionally-stunted father, is it?"
Hank, Community, "Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons"

Maybe he wants to make up for being away from home so often. Maybe he wants to understand what is in this kid's mind. Or maybe he just wants to prevent him from turning gay. Whichever reason he may have, one day Dad decides that he and Son should go out of the house and do something together! It will be fun, Dad says. And they will get to know each other better, won't that be great, old chap?

The problem is, Son is right now in an age where he isn't exactly very keen on doing uncool activities with uncool adults (or worse, being seen doing so). And Dad is of course the uncoolest adult there is! Since Son does not really have a say in the matter, he accompanies Dad of course. But don't expect him to just enjoy the day! He will instead react in one of these two ways:

  1. Passive-aggressiveness. Perhaps he won't outright revolt, but instead of being in a good mood, he is constantly snarking, and acts generally rather uncooperative.
  2. He will just find this incredibly dull and boring.

Popular bonding activities are:



  • A daydream of J.D. from Scrubs involves him playing baseball with his "father figure" Dr. Cox.
  • The Simpsons: When Homer finds out that Abe may not really be his biological father, he imagines himself playing baseball with the mystery guy who actually sired him. (He even has a question mark instead of a face!)
  • Not quite baseball, but this imagery is clearly invoked when Buzz plays with Zurg after the Luke, I Am Your Father moment in Toy Story 2.
  • It's not playing baseball, but in Ragtime, when things are really starting to fall apart for the family, Father (who has been mostly neglectful) decides to take the Little Boy to see a baseball game whether he wants to go or not. In the end, Father is the one who has a miserable time (the game has more swearing, spitting, and immigrants than he remembered), while the Little Boy finds it all quite interesting.
  • When Calvin signs up to play baseball at recess, his dad decides to teach him how to play. This goes about as well as you'd expect.
  • A major part of Field of Dreams is Ray's rough relationship with his dad, who loved baseball. At the end of the movie, his father's ghost comes to the baseball field to play with him.
  • Ray attempts this with his son in the 2004 War of the Worlds. Thanks to divorce induced estrangement and raging teenage contempt, it goes disastrously when barbed comments from his son incite Ray to put a lot of heat on his throws and hurt his son's hand, who then "accidentally" busted a window of Rays house.

American Football

  • In the Pilot of No Ordinary Family Jim tries to get the other members of the family interested in family bonding, including throwing the football around. Nobody cares to do so. The trip that they take where they have a plane crash and get their powers was another family bonding attempt.
  • In The Venture Bros., Hank seems to wish he could "throw the old pigskin around" with his dad, as evidenced by Rusty's Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, everyone is shocked that Sheldon is an expert on football, due to his father's insistence on teaching him against his will.
    • In a later episode, this actually enables Sheldon to bond with Mike, Bernadette's father. This is upsetting Howard, because being Mike's son-in-law, he is the one who was supposed to bond with him.
  • In Silver Linings Playbook Pat Sr. tries to make watching the Eagles his bonding activity with his son, who has open contempt for his father's superstitions. They make it work eventually.


  • Bart going fishing with Flanders (not really Bart's father, but in this specific instance clearly acts as father figure) in The Simpsons Movie. But, here this is very much appreciated by the boy. Earlier in the movie Homer did take Bart fishing, just with a bug zapper.
  • In this page of a Star Trek TAS Fan Fiction comic, George Kirk goes fishing with his son James Tiberius. But Kirk Junior considers it far more interesting to analyze the fish with his tricorder.
  • The Dexter's Laboratory episode "Catch of the Day" is about Dexter's father taking him fishing, though the focus of the episode seems to be about getting to the pond before dawn.
  • A textbook example appeared in Zits: Jeremy was already not excited about waking up at the crack of dawn to go on a boring fishing trip with his dad Walt, but then Walt decides to use the alone time to give Jeremy The Talk, making the awkward meter shoot skyward.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Numbuh One / Nigel and his father go fishing and playing the tuba (sousaphone). Nigel reacts with passive aggressiveness. That bites him in the ass when later another kid kidnaps (fishes!) Nigel’s dad to be his own and challenges Nigel to a tuba competition with Nigel's dad as the prize. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • At the end of an episode of How I Met Your Mother, we see Barney's dad taking Barney and his half-brother to a fishing-trip. Barney quickly proclaims that this is boring. However, it can be seen as an improvement of their father-son relationship that Barney has agreed to go with them in the first place. Before that, he either forced his father to join him during his own usual activities (which are partying and hitting on chicks), or completely ignored him. Also, it has to be pointed out that, contrary to most other examples here, Barney is already an adult. His father went away early in his childhood, and therefore they have a lot to make up for.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Legend of the Gobblewonker", Grunkle Stan drags Dipper and Mabel off on a fishing trip in a poorly-built dinghy for Family Bonding Day. Considering how the last Bonding Day got the family arrested for counterfeiting ("The county jail was so cold..." says Mabel), the twins are more than happy to escape for a monster hunt. After Dipper and Mable discover the lake monster was a fake built by Old Man McGucket, a lonely old man desperate for attention, they feel guilty about ditching Stan and go back and fish with him.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Hal guilt trips Malcolm into fishing during a family boat holiday with Stevie's family when he knows that Reece and Stevie are at a cheerleader camp. Malcolm later abandons his father on a rock in the middle of the lake to join his brother
  • The Calvin and Hobbes: The Series episode "Dad" shows Calvin and his father going fishing.
  • One episode of NCIS starts with a father taking his son fishing. The son does not enjoy it—until his dad fishes up a dead body. Suddenly it's the most badass fishing trip ever.
  • Robin: Tim's father Jack makes a plan to go fishing with him after Jack promises to do better about spending time with him and getting to know him upon waking from his couple month long coma and discovering his wife is dead and his health is such that he can't go gallivanting off to the other side of the globe so easily. Jack ends up going on a date with his physical therapist instead and never even tries to make any further plans with his son despite bringing it up on occasion so it's averted in the end.
  • In one episode of Family Matters, Carl realizes he hasn't been spending as much time with Eddie as he used to and decides to taking him on a fishing trip the latter wanted to do. The problem is it's the middle of winter so it becomes an ice fishing trip and not the warm weather activity that Eddie was hoping for. The combination of freezing conditions as well as Steve tagging along and catching all the fish makes Eddie miserable and he and Carl start arguing, only to be interrupted by the ice on the lake beginning to crack.


  • In Dragon Bones, Ward remembers a hunting trip on which his dad got so drunk that he told Ward that he had murdered his own father to inherit the castle and title earlier. Very awkward. Ward pretended to not have understood his father's drunk talking.
  • In The Pest, Gustav Shank brings his son, Himmel, along with him to hunt down the titular protagonist
  • In The Simpsons episode "Homer's Phobia", Homer tries de-gaying Bart by taking him to a deer hunt. (Bart's reaction: "A bunch of guys alone together in the woods? Seems kinda gay.") After being attacked by reindeer, the hunting party gets rescued by the Camp and Gay (but not Camp Gay) man that Homer feared to have "contaminated" Bart in the first place.
  • In Dinosaurs, Earl goes hunting with his son Robbie, in order to lure him away from herbivorism and to turn him back into a carnivore. While herbivorism is obviously a stand in for homosexuality here, in this specific context it would actually make sense for this kind of "therapy" to work. In Robbie's case, though, it doesn't. Instead, he and Earl get eaten by an even larger predator. They get better.
  • In one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf takes a Klingon teenager, who lives in a remotely located colony (technically a Romulan prison, but not really prison-like, due to negligence by the Romulans) to a hunt, because Worf can't accept that he, and the other teenagers born there, know next to nothing about the Klingon Proud Warrior Culture. In contrast to the other examples, this actually works! The teenager even infects all the other Klingons with his post-hunt excitement. Cue a dozen Klingons breaking into a wild drinking song, and their Romulan comrades (their "guards") just sitting there and making uneasy facial expressions.
  • In Moral Orel, Orel and his dad go hunting. "Awkward" would be a bit of an understatement. His dad ends up shooting Orel accidentally and then denies any responsibility or guilt for it cause he was drunk at the time.
  • In That '70s Show, Kitty once convinced Red to take Eric (along with the other males from the main cast) hunting in an attempt to get them to bond. They wind up spending the day in a tree with Red berating Eric for missing a shot at a deer. At the end of the trip, Eric demonstrates that he's a good shot by hitting a can off a fence and explains that he consciously decided not to kill the deer, which gains him some respect from Red, who would rather his son be a pacifist than a lousy shot. He then spoils any actual bonding by shooting a deer himself in utter disregard to Eric.
  • Subverted in Angry Boys, where apparently, Daniel's mum's partner offered him to go hunting with him, but Daniel declined because "We don't fuckin' go hunting, mate."
  • What Remains of Edith Finch features a father-daughter variant. After his harsh parenting has caused him and his daughter to drift, Sam Finch takes his daughter Dawn (mother of Edith) on a camping and hunting trip. Despite a begrudging and awkward start, Dawn does start to have fun. When Dawn shoots a buck on a cliff, Sam decides to set his antique camera on a timer to take a commemorative photo with her. Unfortunately, he doesn't check to make sure the deer is dead, and the camera captures him being bucked off the cliff to his death right in front of Dawn.

Hiking and Camping

Other (Team) Sports

  • In documentary Hoop Dreams, Bo Agee leaves the family for a while due to a severe cocaine problem. He eventually makes it back into his son Arthur's life, and they play a one-on-one basketball game in the park. It gets edgy and ill-tempered.
  • In the original UK version of ''Life on Mars' Sam Tyler plays soccer with his Dad- the twist being because he's travelled back in time his Dad doesn't know this!
  • In Quack Pack, Donald convinces his nephews to play ice hockey with him. They are bored by this, and just try to win the game really fast, in order to end this as soon as possible.
  • The Dexter's Laboratory episode "Sports a Poppin'" has Dexter's father try to teach Dexter a sport—any sport. Dexter winds up either misinterpreting the rules or fails miserably at it, and his father is forced to give up and retreat to the TV, thus missing Dexter using all the sports gears in an attempt to contain the monster that escaped the lab.
    • In another episode, Dad is trying to watch a golf game on tv. Dexter takes this as an opportunity to bond with him and learn about sports. Dad is initially ok with this, but Dexter's lack of knowledge about golf, and his excessive curiosity causes him to talk constantly and asks questions, and get terminologies incorrect, resulting with Dad missing every play when trying to explain things to him.
  • In an attempt to masculine his son, Ludovic's father in Ma Vie En Rose enrolls him in a soccer team. Ludo fails miserably at it though.
  • In Aqua Teen Hunger Force Master Shake and his son Ezekiel play tennis and basketball, though for Shake this is less about bonding and more about finding out what his son is good at so that he can exploit him financially. Ultimately, he discovers that Zeke is both good at chess and not really his son.
  • In Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race one of the teams is a Bumbling Dad named Dwayne and his far savvier thirteen-year-old son Junior. Dwayne mentions that he spends most of his time at the office and is happy for this bonding time, even though Junior doesn't seem to share the feeling.


  • A Goofy Movie: Goofy drags his son Max to a cross-country trip like the ones he took with his dad (which he remembers very fondly, in a subversion of this trope). Along the way, there's a stop at a dilapidated theme park and a short fishing lesson interrupted by Bigfoot. They never actually finish the trip, because Max directs them to Los Angeles to try and get to a concert. They end up bonding anyway after Max saves Goofy from an Inevitable Waterfall with the Perfect Cast, which Goofy taught Max earlier in the film.
  • In one episode of My Dad The Rockstar, Rock is convinced by Willy to try find something they can bond over, leading them to engage in a lot of these kinds activities. Ultimately, they find out they have nothing in common until the very end of the episode when the pair find some common ground in stargazing.
  • An ad for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is narrated by a mom, talking about her daughter not smiling. It seems to be Banned From Youtube, but here's a description.
  • Happens many, MANY times in FoxTrot. An example:
    Peter: Well, I guess things could be worse.
    Jason: Oh?
    Peter: At least Dad hasn't suggest we sit around the campfire naked and beat drums in some stupid "Iron John" male-bonding ceremony.
    -Beat Panel-
    Jason: Say it louder, I don't think he heard you.
    Peter: Well, I guess things could be worse.
    -Cut to Roger peeking out of a tent holding a drum.-
    Roger: Who's up for some bonding?!note 
    • Later in that same trip, he wakes the boys up to get them to go fishing. When both refuse, he says some of them will be eating fish that evening. Cut to dinner, where Peter and Jason are eating canned tuna on crackers (Roger angrily saying he doesn't want any).
    • Note that Roger is in no way trying to cure his sons, he is merely doing what he thinks is fun for every male regardless of age (hence his mastery of the Horrible Camping Trip and Macho Disaster Expedition).
    • Roger gets his sons to play football in waist-deep snow, citing it as a tradition of the Fox family.
    Jason: Ever worry that our bloodline contains a bunch of idiots?
  • The various activities to do with Shaun that Ethan comes up with in Heavy Rain are all pretty awkward, though, of course, their issues are on an entirely different level.
  • Thane and Kolyat seem to be headed for this in Mass Effect 2. If Thane survives the suicide mission it's shown in the third game that they did manage to to connect, perhaps even better than they had before.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer has suddenly decided to spend time with his kids, to get back at his father (somehow). He tries to teach Bart how to ride a bike (even though Bart already knows), pushes Lisa on a tire swing (made with a broken, dirty tire), and showers Maggie with potato chips as he eats them with her strapped to his chest.
    Bart: No offense, Homer, but your half-assed underparenting was a lot more fun than your half-assed overparenting.
    Homer: But I'm using my whole ass.
  • There was a commercial which featured a clearly nerdy dad who was sporting facial piercings, talking about bonding with his son at Burning Man. The son just sat there looking utterly mortified.
  • Inverted in Boiler Room. Seth attempts to have coffee with Marty, but it's Marty (the father) who quickly gets annoyed and leaves.
  • Glee
    • When Blaine correctly picks out a carburetor for Kurt's dad, Blaine explains that he and his own father rebuilt a classic Chevy together. He also explains that he thinks the activity was meant to "turn him straight."
    • There was also has a small Tearjerker moment when Kurt sees his dad and new stepbrother bonding over watching college sports. As Kurt is more a Camp Gay character, it breaks his heart that there are some "manly" activities that he has no interest in and which will never be a way for him to bond with his own father.
    • However, this trope is also inverted for the same characters in a season two episode, in which Kurt and his dad are seen sharing one of Kurt's favorite pastimes - cooking - as a bonding activity instead of the previously seen attempts at sports and working on cars. It doesn't work, but that's not because of the choice of activity.
  • Variation: the awkward father-daughter bonding between Veronica and her father in Better Off Ted. For years the two of them have interacted mostly through corporate espionage and trying to one-up each other, but when Veronica's father develops terminal cancer they make some awkward attempts at spending time together. They quickly decide that they preferred the corporate espionage.
  • Aquila is full of them, or at the very least attempted bonding activities like swimming (a lot of swimming is mentioned) but perhaps the oddest one is where a father sticks wheels on the titular space-craft.
  • Subverted in PS238: In the intro, the father-son bonding between The Hulk expy and his son (who is permanently in Hulk form) isn't seen as boring by either party, but involves breaking stuff.
  • In Homestuck, Dad Egbert tries to connect with his son's "interest" in harlequins by filling their entire house with them and giving him a massive harlequin figure for his birthday. If only he knew the origin of John's wall graffiti that led him to the idea in the first place.
  • Gender-inverted example from Hey Arnold!. Helga and her mother are going to meet up with relatives for Mother's Day weekend, and to do that, a road trip is necessary, and becomes this.
  • Another gender-inverted example in The Golden Girls, which is also unique in the sense that it's the daughter who wants to bond. Dorothy isn't sure how much time she has left with her elderly mother Sophia, takes her to Disney World. Sophia wants to go on the rides, but Dorothy, desperate to bond, forces her to stay in the hotel room and go through photos and letters and slides and diaries. This results in a massive blowup and then a reconciliation.
  • In Assassin's Creed III, Connor and Haytham's hijinks from the encounter at the church until the confrontation with Washington qualify.
    • Would also apply to Desmond and and his father William, seeing how they haven't talked to each other in years.
  • On House of Anubis Jerome refers to the search for the gem as a 'bonding thing' with his father.
  • Jimmy Neutron Happy Family Happy Hour: Played straight (?).
    Hugh Neutron: Now it is time for father-son bonding. BOND WITH ME JIMMY.
  • Played for laughs in World's Greatest Dad, where the kid suggests to his dad they could build a rocket, only to add that the idea was retarded.
  • Inverted in Getting Even with Dad as it is Timmy (the son), who wants to improve his relationship with his reluctant father by doing fun activities together.
  • In a non-related example in Shatterheart, Fai attempts to bond with R!Syaoran after he ostracized and ignored the latter for months by having cooking lessons with him and going book-shopping. R!Syaoran hates it the entire time because it comes across as extremely forced and Fai overcompensates too much. It ends in tears when Syaoran gets kidnapped in the bookstore.
  • Played around with in Noob. In the backstory, a father tried that with his teenage son after the death of his wife. Problem: the father is a "Well Done, Son!" Guy and the son has Inferiority Superiority Complex, so the father tries to do his best at the activities, which puts an invisible toll on the son's self-esteem. Poor Communication Kills kicked and the two ended up drifting away even further. The son eventually started playing the MMORPG in which the story is set, hoping it would be a place where his father wouldn't follow him, but turned out to be very wrong. Long story short, things deteriorated to the point that secretly going Archnemesis Dad online ended being the only way the father could interact with his son. In Noob: Le Conseil des Trois Factions, they got themselves to a family therapist who suggested that they try board games and had to be told that the usual activities don't work on them. He ended up prescribing them playing the MMORPG with brand new avatars.
  • In the Futurama episode "A Clockwork Origin", Zoidberg tries to bond with his godson Cubert by boiling a pair of baseball gloves for their lunch.
  • Halfway Gender Flipped in one Midsomer Murders episode, where Barnaby's daughter Cully is in town and wants to spend time with her dad. Unfortunately, there's a murder case that causes him to go back to work at the least convenient times (which happens in every episode, but his wife is used to it by now).
  • In Big Nate, the title character's dad tends to leap at the chance for some sports bonding, despite being hopelessly un-athletic. Baseball is the most frequent culprit, but football and golf have also made appearances.
  • In one Adventures in Odyssey episode (from the album A Date with Dad and Other Calamities), Ed Washington takes his daughter Tamika on a day of Awkward Father-Daughter Activities when he feels like he's losing touch with the teenager she's becoming. Said activities are based on her interests as a much younger child and merely wind up embarrassing her. The episode ends with Ed learning that he needs to relate to his daughter as the person she is, not the one he remembers, while Tamika realizes that her father is genuinely trying to have fun with her and that she should make an effort to appreciate that he wants to be involved in her life. They find a mutually agreeable activity and ultimately wind up averting this trope.
  • A few episodes of Atomic Puppet center on Joey and his dad Phil doing activities together. For example, "Survival of the Feltest" has the two go hiking in the wild and Phil teaches Joey some survival skills.
  • Inversion: The Beetlejuice episode "The Son Dad Never Had" presented the Ghost With The Most taking on the persona of cousin B.J. (taking on the size and demeanor of a 12-year old) bonding with Lydia's dad Charles while she's busy with a project. Lydia, upon seeing this, starts thinking she's unwanted—until she sees Beetlejuice fleecing Charles for money. Lydia sends BJ. home, much to her dad's relief. And as it turns out, he loves to do things with Lydia, which he describes as "us" things.
  • In Birdy the Mighty, Tsutomu's father abruptly declares that he's going to join his son in the bath for some "father-son naked bonding time" (which makes his wife say "Wait, what?!") Of course, the potential awkwardness is really cranked up since his son is Sharing a Body with an attractive female alien...and she's in the body when Dad walks in.
  • Invoked in one sketch on Saturday Night Live in 2018 - Adam Driver is a man hoping to bond with his son after his ex-wife got custody of him, and the medium chosen is none other than Fortnite. He gets the whole squad killed.
  • In When Heaven Spits You Out, in order to make up with Ryan after breaking his arm, Simon takes Ryan to the park for a walk, although Ryan is initially reluctant to do so. Once there, the pair do very little interaction, mooching silently around the lake while walking their dog, Chester.


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