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Doesn't Know Their Own Child

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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 or being Maternally Challenged. May overlap with Amazingly Embarrassing Parents. Supertrope to Father, I Don't Want to Fight and Always a Child to Parent. 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 "Gender-Normative Parent" Plot, where the parent may know of what their child is into while refusing to accept it and demanding that the child be how they prefer.



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    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.
  • Boruto: Sasuke has been away on a mission most of Sarada's life so he doesn't know much about her. They're both awkward around each other, which isn't made better by Sasuke's general lack of social skills. The Parent and Child Day filler episode revolved around their tense relationship. One mistake Sasuke does is trying to treat Sarada like she's seven when she's almost a teenager.
  • In Sailor Moon, it's Played for Laughs when Usagi's father sees "the Princess of Ivanova" all dolled-up in formal wear and wonders if his daughter will look like that when she is older. He didn't realize that it is Usagi who was using her Disguise Pen to sneak into the ball.

    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.
  • In The Long Halloween, Alberto Falcone claims that this trope is why he assumed the mantle of the Holiday Killer— his father Carmine knows nothing about him and always considered him "weak," so Alberto decided to prove his strength by wiping out Carmine's enemies. Alberto chose the holiday gimmick because he himself was born on Valentine's Day. When Alberto is arrested, Carmine tries to bail him out, only for his son to ask him about that birthday. When Carmine can't answer, Alberto snaps that he'd rather stay in Arkham among the "other freaks" than have to spend one more minute with his father.
  • Knights of the Old Republic Played for Drama. Krynda Draay has a vision in which the First Watch Circle execute their Padawans. She suffers a stroke, rendering her unable to move. Subsequently, Haazen imprisons her in a crystal oubliette to keep her alive in stasis, where she experiences the Padawan massacre repeatedly. Krynda barely endures the torment because of her desperate hope that her son Lucien Draay will never commit murder. When she is removed from the stasis pod and Lucien tells her the truth, that he did not kill any Padawans, he ordered their murders. Outraged and horrified, she tells him no mission is worth the lives of younglings and asked Lucien who had led him to believe that murdering the Padawans was the right thing to do. She is horrified when Lucien says she had, and that he had done it to carry out her mission—by any means necessary. Realizing that her teachings had led her son to murder his students, Krynda claimed that she had been wrong the entire time. In her last moments, she told Lucien to accept his mistakes and face the future with humility.
  • PS238 has a particularly extreme example with Tyler's parents. They're two of the world's strongest superheroes, and at first remained convinced that their son couldn't possibly be a Muggle Born of Mages. Eventually they got Toby, Tyler's clone "brother," who is a Reality Warper; since then, they sometimes seem to forget that Tyler even exists.
  • In RWBY (2019), Weiss' Alcoholic Parent Willow doesn't even remember her age.

    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.
  • RWBY: Scars: Willow spent so much of her children's childhoods ignoring them that she can't remember what their favorite foods are. When she tries to make Weiss Comfort Food after Weiss nearly kills herself, she opts to make schnitzel because that something Atleseans generally like.
  • The Lost King: while Garon is a much better parent than most of his concubines, he still has to have a journal to keep track of his numerous children's personal info such as likes and dislikes.
  • In The Stalking Zuko Series, Hakoda, has spent a long time either fighting the Fire Nation or being imprisoned by them at the Boiling Rock. As such, he doesn't fully realize how much his children, Katara and Sokka, changed in his absence. To his credit, he does try to make up for it by being a "cool dad," even if his efforts are rather awkward.
  • Origin of a Non-Hero: Izuku knows practically nothing about his son Shikinori. When Shiki is having difficulty finding a job, he invites him to work at his Hero Agency, joking about he could become a receptionist if he doesn't want to crunch numbers. Mathematics is Shikinori's favorite subject, and he was searching for a job as a math teacher.
  • In Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, Professor Cerise is completely out of touch with his daughter. She's not interested in Pokémon, and he only shows interest in her whenever Pokémon are involved, reinforcing her resentment of them. Later chapters reveal that he doesn't even know his son either, whether it be that his son likes girly shows — My Little Ponyta and Sofia the First — or how both children were afraid of their father's anger if he ever learned about Chloe's love of the macabre and her knack of writing horror stories.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Becket, King Henry the Second asks one of his sons "Which one are you?"
  • In 80's slasher Cemetery of 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, in order to make the 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.
  • In Home Alone, when Kate laments that she's a bad mother to the leader of the polka band, he answers that she's surrounded by bad fathers, citing that one of them forgets the names of his children half the time.
  • One of the main sources of drama (and humor) in Freaky Friday (2003) is that Tess Coleman doesn't know her teenage daughter Anna nearly as well as she thinks. When they swap bodies, Tess subsequently finds out a lot more about Anna and comes to understand her better. One notable example is that Tess can't understand why Anna no longer wants to hang around with her Childhood Friend Stacy, not believing Anna when she claims she's now an Alpha Bitch who bullies her. Tess-in-Anna's-body subsequently finds out the hard way why Stacy and Anna aren't friends anymore when Stacy frames her for cheating on her exam after she'd attempted to make peace with her. The film also features an inversion of this trope, as Anna doesn't know her mother all that well either and thus also gains a better insight into her life.
  • Played for Drama in the final scene of Gone Baby Gone. When Helene's four-year-old daughter Amanda is abducted, she makes a televised plea for her to be returned, mentioning that she was taken along with her favourite doll Mirabelle. It's eventually revealed that Amanda's kidnapping and supposed death was actually a conspiracy between the police investigators and the girl's aunt, one of whom adopted Amanda, as they believed that Amanda would be better off with them due to Helene being a neglectful drug addict. Private investigator Patrick turns them in despite this and Amanda is returned to her mother; however, when Patrick visits the family and asks Amanda about Mirabelle, she says the doll's name is actually Annabelle, revealing Helene didn't even know the name of her daughter's toy and causing Patrick to wonder if he made the right decision after all.
  • This is implied in the 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet, where, after she sends the Nurse out so she can talk to Juliet about an arranged marriage, Lady Capulet realizes that she doesn't really know how to talk to her and calls the Nurse back.
  • David's Mother: When Sally hears that Susan is pregnant, she says, "She's only eighteen!" Bea says, "She's nineteen."

  • Nearly all the kids' parents in Animorphs. Justified since the Animorphs are upholding The Masquerade, but none of them have any idea that something is wrong until the last few books, when Marco reveals the truth to his father (his mother knew about the Yeerks already, being Visser One's host, and had figured out the truth about the Animorphs already) and then the rest of the Animorphs evacuate (or fail to rescue) their families a few books later. Rachel's mom probably has the hardest time coming to terms with her daughter's secret life and Blood Knight tendencies. And of course, Loren has amnesia, so she wouldn't know Tobias anyway.
    • Tom, despite being Jake's brother and living with him for the entire war, took 3 years to figure out Jake was an Animorph. He didn't even realize the "Jake" in #6 was actually Ax in Jake morph, despite his weird behavior.
  • 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.
  • Whateley Universe: Referenced in Silent Nacht (Chapter 5), with Mr. Magic:
    "Really... you never bothered to find out what SEX your child really is?" Macabre sneered. "Such a negligent parent hardly has any room for such righteous indignation."
  • My Teacher Is an Alien: After Peter leaves Earth, his distraught father begins to ask Duncan about where he might have disappeared to, since he's the only one of Peter's friends that he knows. The thing is, Peter really had no friends and Duncan was his school bully—it's just that Peter let him stay over one night after Duncan had run away from home.
  • This is how The Story Of A Disfigured Princess ends. After Kamilah cuts up her face, runs away, and rechristens herself "Barabel", her family seeks her out but they (and their servants) don't recognize her through her scars as, because they were so overprotective and controlling, they didn't get to know her as a person.
  • Paul Fisher to his father in Tangerine. Paul's dad sees him cutting out a newspaper article about the all-county soccer team, and asks if he made the team. This annoys Paul, who quizzes his father about what position he played on his soccer team. Paul's dad angrily asks "How am I supposed to know that?" So Paul asks him how many field goals his brother kicked that season — Erik's football career being their dad's absolute favorite thing to talk about, ever. Paul's dad acknowledges the unfairness of this but also tries to claim that this season was really important for his brother.
  • Darya from There's More Than One Way Home is so uninterested in her kids that she can't remember whether her son Kennedy is two or three.

    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.
  • The Pretender: In the episode "Bank", Parker's emotionally distant father comes to visit her and tries to do the affectionate father thing, complimenting her on a painting she has hanging in her house and reminiscing about when she was little and took piano lessons. When she points out that the painting was a graduation present from him, and that he's wrong about what her favorite piano piece was, he shrugs it off.
  • One episode of Roseanne combines this with Jacob and Esau: Roseanne accuses Dan of not knowing enough about Becky, Dan accuses her of not knowing enough about Darlene, and they "switch" for a while.
  • Moira on Schitt's Creek doesn't know Alexis's middle name, and David once reminds her that she took the wrong child home from pre-school. Moira responds that Alexis looked Chinese as a baby. Moira does eventually make an effort to get to know Alexis.
  • One episode of Clarissa Explains It All has her mother convinced of this trope, and becoming annoyingly clingy as a result.
  • In the episode "Seven Seconds" in Criminal Minds, the team were able to figure out Richard Jacobs was molesting his niece, who has gone missing, due to the fact that he could easily recall all of her likes and interests but couldn't recall anything about his own son. They state that it's common for a pedophile to focus entirely on their target to the point they lack any interest in their own kids.
  • In The Love Boat episode "Aunt Hilly," Vicki's titular rich aunt insists that she loves her son and sent him to boarding school for his own good, not to get rid of him. But when asked when he was born, she can't come up with anything more specific than "April or May," which she only remembers because his birth interrupted a social function.
  • All My Children. Shortly after tracking down her birth mother Erica Kane, Kendall Hart asked her point blank, "Do you love me?" Just as bluntly, Erica told her "No"—having given her up for adoption at birth and never having seen her since, she's a complete stranger to her.

    Video Games 
  • Another Code R: Due to his long periods away, Richard suffers a bad case of this in regards to his daughter Ashley. In particular, Ashley gets ticked off that she's unable to practice for a band competition due to her stuff getting stolen in the opening cutscene to which Richard acts surprised as not only did he not know Ashley was in a band to begin with, but that she wants to be a musician for a career.
  • God of War (PS4): This is the case with Kratos and Atreus, following years of Kratos being an incredibly distant parent. On several occasions they two express a lack of knowledge about the other - which Kratos admits is his own fault.

    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.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph's parents are completely in the dark that their daughter is one of the greatest earthbenders in the world and a Little Miss Snarker, and instead see her as a meek, delicate flower in need of constant protection. When Toph personally proves her father wrong on this assumption, her parents just double down on the idea that Toph needs constant protecting, leading her to run away for good. In Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift, Toph and her father have an unintentional reunion, and though her father continues to be stubborn in the first two volumes, when Toph saves him during a cave-in he realizes how ridiculous he's been and slowly begins to start appreciating Toph's abilities instead of stifling them.
  • Family Guy: Often Played for Laughs regarding Meg Griffin, who is sometimes portrayed as so neglected that her parents have no idea who she is.
    • In "The Kiss Seen 'Round the World," embarrassing footage of Meg kissing the super-annoying Neil Goldman airs on national TV. When she sees it, she flies into a panic:
      Meg: [to Lois and Peter] I'M GONNA KILL MYSELF! I'm going upstairs and eating a whole bowl of peanuts!
      [Lois and Peter stare at her, uncomprehending]
      [she runs upstairs sobbing]
      Peter: ...Who was that guy?
    • In another episode, Peter ends up with baby swallows nesting in his newly-grown beard. When Lois points out that there are three of them, just like their own children, Peter imagines the kids' heads on the birds. He gets Stewie and Chris right, but can't picture Meg, and ends up picturing Boba Fett's helmet instead.
    • One first-season episode plays this trope for drama regarding Chris, who is a member of the Boy Scouts, but secretly hates it and prefers drawing instead. Peter is completely oblivious to this and keeps trying to force Chris to participate in scouting activities. After Chris finally confesses the truth, Peter is upset but tries to be supportive anyway.
  • 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 fifties.
  • Chloe's mom in Miraculous Ladybug never gets her name right on the first try.
  • The Simpsons: In the appropriately titled episode "The Dad Who Knew Too Little," Homer hired a private detective to learn more about Lisa.
  • 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 Priyanka 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. Priyanka realizes her folly and takes more of an interest in who her daughter actually is and the events of her life.
    • The Great Diamond Authority never realize that the youngest of them, Pink Diamond, is actually the one who instigated the rebellion for Earth as Rose Quartz because they tend to dismiss and ignore her in favor of their tyranny, even thousands of years after her demisenote .
  • Gargoyles had an interesting twist. Hudson and Broadway know each other quite well, but according to Word of God, neither is aware they are father and son, respectively.note 
  • Played for Drama in Hey Arnold! regarding Helga and her parents. Both Big Bob and Miriam heap praise and attention on their firstborn daughter Olga, to Helga's detriment — Miriam doesn't know how old she is, and Bob tends to call her "Olga" despite her repeatedly telling him who she really is. Each gets an episode where they're forced to confront their total lack of understanding about Helga.
  • One episode of As Told by Ginger sees the title character calling Macie's parents, who are both brilliant psychiatrists completely wrapped up in their work, out for this. When they realize that they know absolutely nothing about their daughter, they try to make up for it; unfortunately, they do so by treating her like a five-year-old, doing things like buying her a child's playset and hosting her birthday party at a petting zoo. Macie likes the attention and goes along with the activities for a while, but ultimately decides that she'd rather try developing a proper relationship with her parents instead.
  • Downplayed in The Spectacular Spider-Man: Flash's parents invite Peter to his birthday party, noting that they're "best friends."

    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.