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Brought Home the Wrong Kid

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A rather common plot in sitcoms is for a babysitter or neglectful parent to take the child (or children) to the park or other place of recreation— one where there will be plenty of other kids around. Through Finagle's Law or the laws of sitcom universes, the parent will accidentally bring the wrong child home, only realising this when it's too late. The minder will spend the rest of the episode trying to conceal their mistake from the parents while they try to find the original baby. For obvious reasons, this only happens with babies and extremely young toddlers. While the neglectful babysitter may be either male or female, if it is an actual parent bringing the wrong baby home it is always the father.

Not to be confused with Switched at Birth.


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    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Another Thin Man, some of Nick's hoodlum friends decide to throw Little Nicky a first birthday party, and bring all their own kids. One of them has to rent one to attend. The villain of the story, after being revealed, attempts to get away by claiming to have kidnapped Nicky. Nora goes to check and sure enough, there is another kid in his place. Turns out the villain was bluffing. Nick's friend had grabbed the wrong kid when he left, and the villain happened to notice before everyone else. The friend soon returns with Nicky, clearing it up.

  • Discworld:
    • As a child, Moist von Lipwig was The Nondescript to the point where his mother often came home with the wrong kid.
    • In Jingo, an Ankh-Morpork fisherman and a Klatchian fisherman stumble on the newly-risen island of Leshp at the same time. When the two men realize that they can't lay claim to it for their respective nations unless they get home first, each grabs for his boy's arm and rushes back to his boat...and then returns, lambasting the other man as a kidnapper, to swap for his own boy.
  • The main plot complication in Good Omens is kicked off when an intentional two-child switcheroo turns into an unintentional three-child switcheroo.
  • The plot of the Robert Munsch book Alligator Baby is spawned by a little girl's parents accidentally taking a baby alligator home instead of the child the mom gave birth to.

    Live-Action TV 
  • From The Suite Life of Zack & Cody Carey gives us this little anecdote.
    Carey: I was mad when you came home from the playground with the wrong twins.
    Dad: It was an honest mistake.
    Carey: They were girls.
  • In Hope & Faith, there's a variation where Faith starts using a baby doll to get an experience of what it feels like to be a mother. She takes the doll to the park and ends up coming home with a real baby. Being Faith she initially thinks the doll came to life.
  • In Coronation Street Rosie Webster took her baby brother Jack to be in a photo shoot and ended up bringing home a girl baby.
  • In the Friends episode "The One With the Baby on the Bus", Joey and Chandler leave Ben on a bus and discover there are, bizarrely, two abandoned babies in transit authority custody, and they can't remember what Ben was wearing. They end up tossing for it. They panic slightly when the baby they brought home doesn't cry when Monica holds him, but it turns out to be a delayed reaction and they relax. (They don't manage to get away without Ross learning what happened, though, because Ben's now wearing a "Property of Human Services" diaper.)
  • In Good Luck Charlie, the teenage son hits on a girl with an identical baby carriage. Charlie is a girl, but this girl was carrying a boy with her. You can imagine what happened.
  • In Community episode "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy", Chang attempts to get on Shirley's good side by picking up her kids and showing he can be a good dad. Too bad he picks up someone else's kids.
  • A variation on The Nanny: when C.C. takes the three Sheffield children on an outing, Niles convinces her that there's a fourth child she's lost track of. He stops thinking it's funny after she brings a random kid back to the Sheffield house (marking one of the few times in all of their sparring when she comes out on top).
    Kid: You promised me and my mom fifty!
    C.C.: Well, if you had remembered your line about needing your insulin, you'd be getting fifty.
  • The Office episode "The Delivery" has a variation of this where Pam, while spending the night in the delivery room, breastfeeds the wrong baby(!)
  • Scrubs went one step beyond this, with a fantasy where Turk somehow mixed up his (imaginary) son with a pumpkin. Which he and Carla then proceed to raise as their own. After 21 years, they finally reunite with him only for him to be hit by a bus. Also, the pumpkin baby dies.
  • In an episode of Baby Daddy, Bonnie is on a date with another child's grandfather and brings the wrong stroller home after things don't go well (she was flustered and both strollers had blankets over them so the children could sleep).
  • In a Halloween episode of Family Matters, Waldo takes Richie trick-or-treating and comes home with the wrong kid who was wearing the same Spider-Man costume as Richie.
  • Happened to Brick for a month in The Middle, which may explain part of his strange behavior.
  • A Cold Open for an episode of Malcolm in the Middle has Hal bring home a muddy toddler from the park. When Lois begins speaking, Hal goes on a spiel on how she shouldn't smother Jamie so much, saying Jamie needs to play in the dirt from time to time, only for Lois to bluntly respond, "That's not Jamie!" Hal, takes a closer look, and reassures her that he knows exactly who he exchanged Jamie with.
  • In an episode of Step by Step shortly after Lily was born, J.T. gets the brilliant idea of auditioning her for a commercial, and drags Al into it. When they get back home, Al insists that the baby they brought back isn't Lily, but J.T. dismisses it until the go to change her diaper...
    Al: Well what do you call THAT?!
    • Even better, when the other mother comes by, Carol is yelling at J.T. on how "this is the stupidest thing you've ever done!" She opens the door just as the other mother is telling her son "this is the stupidest thing you've ever done!"
  • On The Rookie episode "A.C.H.", Bradford and Chen are working Halloween as a woman at a diner relates the young boy in a Stitch costume isn't her child. They track down the real kid, taken to a nice home by a father who was on the phone. Even better? The guy never noticed the kid in the costume was a girl.


    Western Animation 
  • Rugrats:
    • "Toys in the Attic" One episode where Tommy and Angelica are staying with Didi's parents has the babies up in the attic but Grandpa Boris rushes outside and brings back in two obviously different children (a girl with a much more tomboyish haircut and outfit than Angelica and a boy who looks much older than Tommy as well).
    • "Toy Palace" has Tommy and Chuckie switch themselves with a baby doll and a monkey doll so they can stay in the Toy Palace overnight. Stu and Chas don't even notice their kids are gone until after they arrive home.
  • In a The Flintstones where Fred was supposed to be watching baby Pebbles, he and a fellow poker player each grab up the wrong infant when they see their wives pass by, heading home; naturally the men aren't there. The incident is rather brief, but somehow Fred grabs the wrong kid, a very loud crying boy, twice, as he frantically deals with child and an angry Wilma.
  • Inverted in an episode of The Simpsons where Grandpa is meant to babysit Bart and Lisa and goes to the Flanders' house by mistake.
  • An episode of Dexter's Laboratory saw Dexter switching places with an Identical Stranger named Dextor because they both have nearly identical parents and were too distracted reading magazines to look up when they heard "Time to go home!" Interestingly neither set of parents seems to realize that they have the wrong son, despite the change in hair color and completely different personalities (Dextor being a total Keet like Dee-Dee)
  • Family Guy:
    • On the first Star Wars special, Peter mentions that he and Lois got halfway home with the afterbirth before going back to the hospital and swapping it out for Meg.
    • Another episode has Peter accidentally bringing home another baby and leaving Stewie behind at the park.
  • Subverted in the cartoon, "Going Up" from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "What Makes Toons Tick". Baby Plucky switches himself with Baby Babs so his mother will take her home with her instead of him and he can stay at the mall and play with the elevator controls. Mrs. Duck realizes she brought the wrong baby to her car after she buckles Baby Babs into Baby Plucky's car seat.
  • Moral Orel had a family actually move with the wrong kid. The other family got their kid back (but didn't switch) about half a season or a whole season away, depending on how you look at it.
  • In the The Loud House episode, "Two Boys and a Baby", Lincoln and Clyde take Lily to the park to play to calm her down after they accidentally wake her up. When they try to bring her back home, they accidentally bring home a baby boy. They meet up with the baby boy's father, who tells them he accidentally brings home someone else's baby all the time.

    Real Life 
  • Charles Schulz, of Peanuts fame, when he was young, was often mistaken for other children, so this was a common occurrence for him. According to the Fiftieth Anniversary Peanuts Collection, Schulz based Charlie Brown's physical appearance on his mental image of himself as The Nondescript.
  • One of Billy Connolly's skits features a childhood incident in which Mr Cumberland was ordered by his wife to get the "weans" off the street before he could go to the pub, and in his haste to get the many Cumberland children inside, accidentally grabbed young Billy and his sister as well. Nobody noticed until the search party sent by Billy's mother turned up two Cumberlands! And according to his biography, this actually happened.
  • An especially sad case was that of Bobby Dunbar, who disappeared at age 4 in 1912. Eight months later, authorities found a boy resembling him in another state; he was traveling with handyman William Walters. Walters pointed out that this boy was actually a different boy named Bruce Anderson, a fact later correlated by his mother Julia Anderson, who had granted Walters temporary custody of the boy. But since Anderson was unmarried and couldn't afford a lawyer, their pleas were dismissed by the courts. Little Bruce went to be "reunited" with the Dunbars and died in 1966 under the name "Bobby Dunbar Sr.". Anderson's and Walters' claims were eventually proven true when Bruce's son, Bob Dunbar Jr., undertook DNA testing in 2004.