Hiccup: Eh, should I... Should I know you?
Valka: No. You were only a babe... But a mother never forgets.
A parent-child bond is strong enough that even in situations where the child is in disguise, is being impersonated by someone else, or is in the midst of a crowd of look-alikes, the parent can still identify them.
Commonly associated with mothers due to the maternal bond that's usually created through pregnancy, childbirth, and the early years of child-rearing. However, this phenomenon isn't limited only to mothers, as fathers and other relatives can qualify for this as well.
Compare Something Only They Would Say, which is where a character who's in disguise or whose identity is uncertain makes himself known by saying or doing something that only they would normally do. May also overlap with Spot the Imposter in some cases, but it is NOT the same trope. Contrast Doesn't Know Their Own Child.
Also not to be confused with That Thing Is Not My Child!, where a person denies parental responsibility to a child because said child was born via cloning or other unnatural means.
An inversion of this trope would be the child being able to identify their parents despite the specified conditions.
NOTE: To qualify for this trope, the persons MUST be related, whether by blood, adoption, or some other family-related clause. True Companions don't count, as while they may have the semblance of family ties, in the strictest sense of the word they are not family and generally haven't raised the child/children from birth or infancy.
Compare Improbably Predictable.
- Downplayed in Boruto during the time travel arc. Hinata specifically notes that Boruto resembles her crush Naruto and even comments to the other girls that she feels far more at ease around him compared to her usual Shrinking Violet self, but she gives no indication of being aware that he's her Kid from the Future.
- Dragon Ball Z: Inverted during the Namek saga. Captain Ginyu has switched bodies with Goku, planning to use this to his advantage when he meets Krillin and Goku's son, Gohan. Before Ginyu can even open his mouth, Gohan is quick to tell Krillin "That's not Dad!"
- High School D×D: The villain Rizevim forces Issei to turn into a dragon before showing him to his parents, planning to drive him to despair by having his parents reject him as a monster. Fortunately, since the transformation did not affect his voice or personality at all, his parents recognize him and assure that they still love him.
- Kasane: When Nina's mother first met Kasane impersonating Nina she immediately noticed that there's something different about "Nina" and she ultimately realizes that Kasane is not Nina. Nina's father, on the other hand, averts this trope and Kasane convinces him that the mother suffers from the Capgras delusion.
- Subverted in Nichijou. Yuuko Aioi's Oddball Doppelgänger, Doublecheeseburgirl, has such similar clothes and hair that she is often mistaken for Yuuko by her friends until Doublecheeseburgirl does a Face-Revealing Turn to reveal her freaky, depressed-looking face. At one point Yuuko's mother approaches her from behind and smacks her on the head for making a little girl cry. Doublecheeseburgirl turns around — and Yuuko's mother smacks her again while saying "Don't give me that face!"
- In Parasyte, mothers seem to have this. The parasite who took over Ryoko Tamiya had to kill her host's mother, who could somehow tell that she was an "imposter" and tried to call the police; the parasite is initially confused about how she managed to figure this out. Likewise, Shinichi's own mother realizes that something is wrong with him, despite the fact that he's (at least mostly) retained his normal personality.
- Sailor Moon Crystal: In episode 10, the Virtual Ghost of Queen Serenity immediately recognizes Usagi as her reincarnated daughter even though she is also transformed into Sailor Moon.
- Tenchi Muyo!:
- In the OVA, while Yosho's false persona of Katsuhito Masaki had been known fact for a while, his mother sees right through his disguise of being old, which was part of that persona, and asks him to take it off. No one else knew about that.
- In the movie Tenchi Muyo in Love, Achika recognizes Tenchi as her son, despite the fact that she is in high school, unmarried, not even dating, and Tenchi won't be born for another nine years.
- Averted in Zekkyou Gakkyuu. Rika's mother fully believes that the transformed Mary is her own daughter, and pays no mind to her real daughter trapped in a doll's body on the shelf.
- In Birthright, Aaron immediately recognizes his son Mikey even though Mikey has aged to adulthood during his time in Terrenos.
- Ms. Marvel (1977): While Joe Danvers is unable to recognize that the blonde-haired superwoman who saved his life is his only daughter, his wife is able to instantly notice despite not having known Ms. Marvel even existed until the day before. However, this also has to do with the fact Joe is a colossal sexist ass with a very fixed image of what Carol is "supposed" to be, and no amount of effort on Carol's part has ever changed that.
- The Sandman (1989): In "The Wake", Lyta realizes that what is left of her son Daniel is part of the current aspect of Dream at the start of their conversation.
- In one Spider-Man story, the Chameleon has seemingly tricked Aunt May into thinking that he's Peter, only for her to correct him of that notion—she is, after all, Peter's mother in all but name, and he could never fool her. Oh, and by the way, those cookies that she offered him were poisoned.
- After The Death of Superman, four individuals turn up, each of them claiming to be Superman. Pa and Ma Kent know right away the Metropolis Kid can't possibly be their son because Clark would never behave like a delinquent. In fact, Pa Kent said that none of them is their son, any more than he is the king of England.
- In the Superman Family story Strangers at the Heart's Core, Lesla-Lar takes over Supergirl's body in an attempt to steal her enemy's life, but she fails to fool Kara's parents. Zor-El points out that their daughter would never call them by their first names, and Alura states she just knows her own daughter.
Alura: There was something else about you that wasn't right! A mother knows her own flesh and blood...
- As N Approaches Infinity: This enables Isshin to act as a Living Lie Detector for his kids; he knows them that well.
- In Batman: Angel of Death, when Azrael's mask is broken off, Catwoman instantly knows the woman underneath is her younger sister, Maggie, despite how they haven't seen each other in almost two decades.
- In born of hell('s kitchen), Matt immediately identifies seven-year-old Peter as his son by his smell, in spite of being previously unaware of the fact he was a father at all.
- Subverted in Boys Do Tankary. Nyra's mother gave her youngest child, Vincent, up for adoption, not even bothering to give him a name. Years later, when Nyra contacts Vincent, Nyra's mother assumes Vincent seduced Nyra when Nyra's actual reason for calling Vincent was to reach out to him as his sister.
- In chapter 89 of Dragon Ball Z: Dynasty, it's revealed that Goku and Chi-Chi recognized from the beginning that Future Daikon wasn't their nephew from Raditz and Launch (akin to Future Ranch being the latter couple's daughter) but rather their own Kid from the Future. Specifically, he's the future version of their younger son Goten.
- Downplayed sibling variant in the Fate/stay night fanfic Fate Converge, where Sakura Matou notices that her senior Rin Emiya looks like an older version of her supposedly-deceased big sister but can't confirm it. It's not until learning that Rin lost her old family and memories in the Fuyuki Fire, the same event that Sakura's sister and mother were reported to die in, and only has a Tohsaka pendant with no idea what it is that Sakura can confirm her suspicions.
- In Hakumei, this is used as a point of contrast between two different families. Mikoto and Fugaku fail to recognize their son Sasuke, who ran away from home a few years prior, when he's standing right in front of them. Hiashi, on the other hand, is able to see right through the genjutsu Hinata and Neji are using to hide their Byakugan.
- Here There Be Monsters: When Edith Bromfield lets on that she knows Mary's secret, she points out her own daughter could not keep her fooled forever.
- Infinity Crisis: In Gamma Relations, Magneto feels there's something about the Maximoff twins but is unable to define what.
- Ned Stark in Knights, Magic, & Dovahkiin instantly recognizes his Mysterious Protector as Jon when he unmasks himself, despite having not seen him in over ten years.
- A sibling variant happens in Mad Sanity when Ariana Dumbledore, after Time Traveling into the future, is able to instantly recognize both of her now-elderly brothers, Albus and Aberforth.
- The New Retcons plays with this very darkly:
- On one hand, Elly completely fails to recognize April as her youngest daughter as she falls deeper and deeper into her delusions, convincing herself that April must be one of her husband's dental assistants, as well as a would-be homewrecker with her eyes on luring John away from her. John, for his part, does nothing to prevent Elly from kicking April out of their house.
- Even in the depths of her psychotic break, however, Elly does recognize her eldest daughter, Claire, and flips out. Namely because Claire's very existence is one of her secret shames.
- Second Chance: After Kalana and Aiko find out the truth about Ventus and his ability to take control of Sora's body, it's stated that they can instinctively tell when he's in control with no explanation beyond "mothers intuition".
- Inverted in the final chapter of The Second Try where a four-year-old Aki is able to recognize her parents despite both of them being significantly younger than when she last saw them a day prior (from her perspective) and her not even knowing that she time traveled.
- She's Mine Then: After adopting their niece Mirabel when she was five, Pepa and Félix are able to tell her and Camilo apart even when Camilo shapeshifts into a perfect copy of her.
- In Tales of Kitty-Whiskers and Ladybug, it's implied, at least from Plagg's POV, that even while under amnesia, Lamiroir is able to faintly recognize that Apollo and Trucy are her children, while her ability to ID voices lets her know that they are the superheroes Ladybug and Kitty-Whiskers.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer fic Time and Time Again features Katie Summers, the Dhampyr daughter of Buffy and Angel who travels back in time to prevent Buffy's death at Glory's hands. While Angel has to be told as such, Buffy, despite still being in a relationship with Riley at the time and having been told by Angel that vampires can't have children, is able to deduce on her own that Katie is her daughter.
- In Time Fixers: Nicktoons of the Future, Cindy reveals that she was able to recognize Maxwell as the future version of her infant son when her husband isn't.
- In the Miraculous Ladybug fanfic The True Villain, Marinette (the titular superhero) is shocked to discover her parents know about her heroics. Her mother admonishes her for this, saying "You insult me, Child. I can pinpoint your voice in a crowd of almost a hundred people. I'm pretty sure a little red mask is not enough to hide you from the gaze of your mother."
- The Ultimate Evil: This trope is played with when the Living Statue of Lo Pei meets Valerie Payne. He believes her to be his daughter Lo Mei because she has the same crystal blue eyes, handwaves the physical differences as the result of magical concealment, and lampshades this trope by saying that any father can know his beloved child anywhere. While the living terracotta is mistaken, Valerie is Lo Pei's descendant by thirty-six generations.
- In What Tomorrow Brings, Elfangor instantly knows that Tobias is his son when he sees him for the first time.
- Brave: Inverted. The triplets recognize Elinor in bear form despite BOTH parties remaining silent.
- In Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie: Arnold finally reunites with his parents Miles and Stella, and they're instantly able to recognize him even though they hadn't seen Arnold since he was just a baby. Though, to be fair, the unmistakable Arnold still had the same hairstyle since birth and was wearing the hat they gave him. And not many kids have football-shaped heads.
- In How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup's long-lost mother, Valka, is ultimately able to recognize him despite the fact that she hadn't seen him since he was just a baby (and Hiccup is 20 years old when they finally reunited).
- In Luca, Daniela and Lorenzo spend roughly half the movie all but harassing the children of the town trying to find their son among them. But in the end, all it takes is for Luca to ride past for Daniela to instantly recognize him.
- Spirited Away:
- Inverted when the protagonist's parents have been transformed into pigs; to rescue them, she must pick them out of a line-up of several dozen other pigs. She correctly determines that none of the pigs are her parents.
- Subverted at another point in that Yubaba cannot recognize Boh transformed into a mouse. Of course, the fact that he was turned into a mouse is a more substantial handicap than normal.
- Tangled: Implied to be the reason Rapunzel's mother recognizes her in the end despite her trademark long blonde hair having been chopped off and turned brown by the end of the film.
- In Attack of the Clones, Anakin finds his captive mother Shmi at a Tusken Raider camp, and Shmi recognizes Anakin instantly despite having not seen him since he was nine, which was ten years ago. That Anakin calls her "mom" probably helps.
- Changeling, a 2008 movie based on true events, is kick-started when a missing boy is returned to his mother — but she immediately realizes it's an imposter. She is committed to a mental institution when she refuses to acknowledge the boy as hers. It's a ploy by the kidnapping case's lead investigator to cover up the police department's incompetence and corruption.
- Horribly subverted in the Korean film Horror Stories, where a Wicked Stepmother fails to recognize her daughter was killed and turned into pickled meat that she was eating. The heroine, who knew the truth, is appalled.
"And you call yourself a mom?"
- In Jett Jackson: The Movie, this is how Miz Coretta, Jett's great-grandmother, figured out that Jett had switched places with his TV role, Silverstone. When Silverstone asks her how she knew, she says that from the moment she first looked into the then-newborn Jett's eyes, she knew she would always be able to identify him. This information later becomes important in defeating the shape-shifting Big Bad in Silverstone's world when he makes himself look identical to both Jetts.
- In the remake of The Parent Trap, the father looks each twin in the eye and declares which one is Hallie. We never find out if he's right though since the twins keep playing up the charade and make him question his own judgment.
- Relative Fear: This is discussed when Linda gets Adam's DNA tested due to her correct suspicions he was Switched at Birth.
Linda: I love Adam, but Dr. Hoyer, virtually from the day I gave birth I had this feeling that he wasn't mine. That he didn't belong to me, that he didn't come out of me.
- Stardust: Una and Yvaine are captured by the witches. Tristan, trying to rescue Yvaine, mistakes Una for one of the captors and is about to attack her when she identifies herself, having recognized him even though the last time she saw him was when he was an infant.
- In the Animorphs prequel novel The Andalite Chronicles, Elfangor immediately recognizes that Tobias is his son due to seeing his mother's features.
- The Braided Path: Mishani cuts off her hair so she can disguise herself as a doctor's assistant to visit her mother, who has been sending her secret messages in her novels. Her mother instantly recognises her and even praises her new look. Subverted with her father, who notes the doctor's assistant seems strangely familiar but cannot quite place her.
- Discworld Averted for Moist von Lipwig, who is so nondescript (an invaluable skill for a conman) that his mother often ended up picking up the wrong kid from school.
- Harry Potter:
- Double Subverted by the twins Fred and George, who indignantly claim that their own mother can't tell them apart when she gets their names wrong... only to reveal that she got it right in the first place. And then there are their monogrammed Christmas sweaters, where they claim to be Gred and Forge.
- This trope is brought up in Harry's internal narration in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where he notes that Ron is avoiding looking into his father's eyes while under the Polyjuice Potion for fear of being recognized. However, considering Harry's earlier use of the potion had Luna Lovegood see straight through it because of his expression, it seems it's not just limited to parents.
- Heckedy Peg, a children's picture-story book, provides a variation: an evil witch turns seven children into seven different types of food. Their mother tries to rescue them, but the witch says she will only change them back if she can guess which child is which food item. She guesses right.
- The Moomins: Finn Family Moomintroll has a case of this, where everyone is playing hide and seek, and Moomin decides to hide under a hat which nobody knows to be an artifact that randomly shapeshifts whatever is inside. Naturally, nobody recognizes him afterward. In the end, he turns to his mother for help, she takes a look and says "Yes, that's Moomin". This also reverses the magic.
- She's Not There:
- Gets discussed by Caroline, who always thought that she would instantly just recognize her missing daughter if she were to ever see her again. But when she actually meets Lili, the girl who thinks she might be the missing daughter, she cannot feel anything that might let her know.
- Played With, as the grandmother just smiles at Lili and flat-out says that Lili is the missing Samantha, claiming that she can see a young Caroline in her face. The rest of the family is unsure if they should believe her.
- Subverted in Tree Castle Island by Jean Craighead George: after Jack discovers on a camping trip that he has a long-lost twin named Jake, and the two return to civilization, Jack's mother (adoptive mother, never knew he had a twin until now) insists that she recognizes the boy she's raised. She goes and stands in front of Jake, not realizing that the two had switched where they were standing when she wasn't watching.
- Played with in Angel in which Illyria disguises herself as Fred in order to trick Fred's parents into believing that their daughter is still alive and well. They seem to fall for it... though as she's about to leave, Fred's mother wonders if there's something a bit "off" about her daughter, before shrugging it off.
- Castle: The reveal in one episode is that a victim was killed because she had just sent away a DNA test to prove that her son had been switched at birth with another boy. Since she's dead, she doesn't get to explain why she suspected the switch or how she identified the correct child, leaving this trope as the only explanation. That said, her husband and the other boy's mother had no idea anything was wrong (and the other boy's father was the one who switched them, so he doesn't count).
- Criminal Minds: Invoked(?) in "The Inspired" which centers around a pair of identical twins on a crime spree. Despite the fact that they'd been identified when one was arrested in the other's place and fingerprinted, Hotch is confident that the only way to figure out which twin is which is to bring in their delusional schizophrenic father, who hasn't seen them since they were toddlers over twenty years ago. Though, to be fair, he identifies one based on an established character tic, rather than any inherent "paternal bond."
- CSI episode "Split Decision" — identical quadruplets are involved in a killing conspiracy, even though one was a lot younger due to the in vitro fertilization aspect of the story. The mom of one of the four said she'd know him anywhere, but didn't know the other quadruplet who'd been ID'ed at the time.
- Doctor Who: Pete Tyler can sense a connection to his daughter Rose, and trusts her immediately, even when she's come back in time to meet him because he died when she was a baby, or when he's an Alternate Universe counterpart who never even had a daughter to begin with. In the latter instance, Pete actually strikes up a conversation with Rose while she's posing as a waitress at his wife's birthday party and ends up telling her so much about his life that he gets confused and quickly excuses himself from the conversation.
- On Drop Dead Diva, model Deb dies in an accident and is reborn into the body of plus-size lawyer Jane. A recurring theme is Deb handling her mother Bobbi, who obviously thinks she's dead yet oddly finds herself trusting this "stranger" she turns to for help.
- Jane's mother, Elaine, often shows up to cause a fuss with her eccentric attitude but Deb/Jane does get to love her as she can't be with her real mom. When she's dying, Elaine stuns Deb by revealing she'd always somehow known she wasn't really Jane but loves her like a true daughter.
- In Fringe, during Season Four, although Peter is both out of his original timeline (making him unknown to everyone in the current one) and in the other universe, his mother Elizabeth still recognizes him as her son grown up.
- Subverted and Played for Laughs in an episode of Full House in which Joey dresses Michelle and her identical-looking Greek cousin in matching outfits and challenges Danny to figure out who is who. Michelle accidentally gives it away.
Michelle: You'll never guess, Daddy.
Danny: Oh, this is a tough one, but I'm going to guess the real Michelle is the one who just called me Daddy.
Michelle: Aw, nuts.
- Jejak Suara Adzan: When Ririn first sees Putra in a video call, she is stunned and, although she claims it's nothing at that moment, later confirms that she thought she is seeing her long-lost son Dika, which turns out to be true.
- Kamen Rider Build: Shinobu Katsuragi recognizes Sento as his son Takumi in spite of Takumi's different face because of the way Sento messes with his hair, stating that he always played with his hair whenever he was anxious or upset.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
- Subverted in the episode "Bullseye". A mother suffering from Capgras Syndrome insists her daughter is an imposter, though she does recognize her daughter's voice when she can't see her.
- One episode has a woman recognize her daughter after passing her on the street one day. She'd never even met the daughter—she was conceived via invitro fertilization and born to another couple via surrogacy. Since the fertility clinic in question had essentially stolen her extra embryo after helping her conceive the (non-identical) daughter she did raise, she shouldn't even have known this child existed, but apparently a mother's instinct is that powerful.
- A similar (but relatively realistic) example occurs in an episode where a woman takes revenge on the men who gang-raped her almost ten years prior because she heard a child laughing one day and somehow recognized the laughter as the daughter conceived via the incident—who she'd given up for adoption—which reawakened the trauma.
- The Outer Limits (1995): Downplayed in "Time to Time". The 25-year-old Lorelle Palmer from 1989 travels back in time to April 14, 1969, and meets her parents Tom and Angie. Both of them find her very familiar and Angie automatically trusts her for reasons that she can't explain but neither makes the connection.
- In Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, Captain Mitchell is able to recognise that the Titanium Ranger is his long-lost son just by looking at his eyes.
- Played for very Black Humor in the Red Dwarf episode "Can of Worms": When Cat is impregnated with Polymorph larvae, which subsequently take the forms of the other Dwarfers, he is unerringly able to identify and shoot the Morphlings because "a mama always knows her kids".
- The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Once and Future King", Gary Pitkin tells Sandra that the real Elvis Presley's mother Gladys could tell that he wasn't her son after he assumed his identity. He believes the knowledge that Elvis was dead is what ultimately killed her.
- This has been cited in many Unsolved Mysteries segments, where people insist that their child's death or disappearance is due to foul play rather than an accident or suicide—"He/she would never do that!" "He/she wasn't suicidal!" (Although the "child" in question is often an adult at this point, the trope still applies).
- Krabat is a Sorbian legend about a beggar boy who is called into the "black mill" by an old evil magician/miller where he learns, along with other boys, how to perform magic. In one version of the legend, Krabat reads without permission in the magician's book. The magician then transforms all of the boys into ravens. Only Krabat's mother is able to save him because she can pick him out of all the other birds.
- The German folk song "Hänschen Klein" is about a boy who walks the earth for seven years. He grows up and decides to come home, but nobody recognizes him anymore. His mother saves the day by looking into his eyes.
- Subverted in Oedipus the King, as Jocasta’s failure to recognize her son (who she believed to be dead after being abandoned as a baby) leads to the events of the plot.
- Inverted in Devil May Cry 4, where Dante could recognize Trish (who has his mother's face) even when she was disguised as Gloria. In Devil May Cry 5 Dante also reveals that he suspected Nero was Vergil's son and thus Dante's nephew the moment he saw him, though he wasn't certain until he saw how the Yamato reacted to Nero. Vergil though had no idea Nero was his son until Dante outright told him during their final battle.
- Double Subverted in Dragon Quest XI. Early in the game, the Luminary finds himself sent 10 years back in time to his adoptive hometown. His mother completely fails to recognize him, but his grandfather realizes who he is instantly. Later on, the spirit of his biological father is able to recognize him despite having not seen him since he was a baby, and his biological mother is one of the few people to sense his presence when he goes into a recreation of the day Dundrasil fell.
- In Fate/Grand Order, King David immediately realizes Dr. Roman is really his son Solomon, but agrees to keep the secret.
- Jojos Bizarre Adventure Eyes Of Heaven: Inverted when Jolyne manages to recognize a time-traveling teenage Jotaro as her father. It probably helps that Teen!Jotaro and Adult!Jotaro LOOKS EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME!!
- Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity has a Promoted to Parent example (given both characters have a Missing Mom). When the adult Sidon is brought from the future to save his older sister Mipha from Waterblight Ganon, Mipha immediately recognizes her brother despite the latter being much bigger.
- King's Quest:
- King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human: Upon being rescued, Rosella has very little skepticism that her rescuer is her long-lost twin brother, though she can still ask for verification by having Alexander-Gwydion reveal his embarrassing birthmark.
- In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, if Cassima's parents are brought Back from the Dead, they can identify that the Cassima who is so eager to marry the Vizier is definitely not their daughter. It helps that she also indulges in a bit of Something They Would Never Say.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the Deku transformation that Link gets is the result of a Deku Scrub getting cursed by the Skull Kid into an inanimate form and the Scrub's form being subsequently used to curse Link. But the Deku Butler, the father of said Scrub, never mistakes Deku Link for his son despite remarking upon the resemblance. This is in contrast to Goron and Zora Link being mistaken for Darmani and Mikau, respectively, who did not have any relatives in the story.
- Ni no Kuni: After the party acquires Mornstar in the past alongside the Emperor's sons, Gascon and Marcassin, they return to Hamelin to find the Emperor on death's doors after an attack by Shadar. Before dying, the Emperor recognizes Swaine as the older version of Gascon, to the latter's surprise. The Emperor outright tells him that even if his appearance changes in the future, he can recognize his own flesh and blood.
- No More Heroes III has a grandparent-grandkid example. When Travis renders Native Dancer unconscious he moves to behead him. Much to his surprise, his own body instinctively refuses to follow through with the killing blow despite his conscious efforts. Native Dancer is revealed in the ending to be Travis' grandson (Travis' daughter Jeane being his mother) from the future, Scott Touchdown.
- Implied in TRON 2.0. There are a few points where Benevolent A.I. Ma3a refers to the protagonist as "Jet" and not "Alan-2" (his login), and when corrupted by bugged code, fights it off long enough for Jet to run. As we find out through the Story Breadcrumbs, Ma3a is the Virtual Ghost of Jet's mother (who was killed in a Freak Lab Accident in this timeline) with her consciousness compiled into the AI.
- Unsounded: Duane recognizes his kid seven years after he'd last seen them and thought her dead with Miki wearing a helmet, face-concealing goggles, a form-disguising uniform, having grown significantly and being in a place women aren't permitted in Aldish society.
- On The Cleveland Show, when Roberta is made to disguise herself as a fat girl as part of a school project, no one at school recognizes her and Junior ends up falling in love with her. When she agrees to go on a pity date with him and he introduces her to the rest of the family, they all somehow recognize her instantly.
- In the Family Guy DVD movie Stewie: The Untold Story, Future Lois is able to recognize her infant son when the rest of the family isn't.
- There are several hints dropped in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), most notably in "The Rainbow Warrior", that Queen Marlena knows Prince Adam's secret identity, but doesn't say anything.
Prince Adam: I was wondering when Skeletor had us all chained up, why did you free me instead of one of the others?
Queen Marlena: Because you are my son, Adam. I didn't have time to free everyone. And I had a... feeling you would know what to do.
Prince Adam: Mother, ah...
Queen Marlena: Adam, a mother always knows her own son. And what he is capable of doing.
- Ivor the Engine: Jones the Steam and Ivor have a very close bond after so many years working together, but Jones usually acts as a sort of parental figure for Ivor, who is good-hearted if sometimes a little disobedient, like a child. Jones can usually guess Ivor’s moods quite easily.
- In the pilot of She-Ra: Princess of Power:, it's established that Princess Adora was kidnapped as an infant. When Prince Adam brings the now-adult Adora into the throne room, King Randor and Queen Marlena immediately recognize her. Man-At-Arms also recognized her.
- The Simpsons:
- Happens in a roundabout, comedic, yet oddly heartwarming fashion in "The Principal and the Pauper", where it's revealed Principal Skinner isn't the real Seymour Skinner. The real one "died" and he kept up the charade after coming back from the Vietnam War because he couldn't stand to upset the real Seymour's mother. Still, it's implied that she knew deep down he wasn't really her son; she has to tell him where "his" room is in the house after all.
- Played for Laughs in an episode where Bart and Lisa went missing while on a field trip. While searching the area where they were last seen, they find something, and Marge gasps — it's the plastic tip from Bart's shoelace! When the others give her a look, she simply says "A mother always knows."
- Inverted in Star Wars: Clone Wars, where male Nelvaanians were being mutated into Super Soldiers. The women of the tribe are initially horrified when Anakin rescues them... until a young girl recognizes her father.
- In an episode of Star Wars Rebels, Ephraim and Mira Bridger hear their son's voice in a rebel transmission. Ezra has been separated from his parents for nearly nine years, during which time he's grown from a kid to a teenager and his voice has broken, but they recognize him anyway. What also sold it was that specific words in the speech were exactly what Ezra's parents taught him.
- Star Wars: Visions: In the season 2 episode "The Spy Dancer", Loi'e's son was taken from her as an infant by the Empire. Decades later, she recognizes him (now an adult, in Imperial uniform, with his alien features concealed so he can pass for human) the moment she gets a good look at his face.
- Steven Universe: In season 5, White Diamond is Pink Diamond's "mother", and instantly recognizes Steven as her the second he steps into the throne room, despite his gem being covered by his shirt. Even Blue Diamond and Yellow Diamond did not recognize Steven as Pink until he was able to project her aura during their fight in "Reunited".
- A played-with version occurs in Young Justice, where M'gann brings Sportsmaster and Cheshire into Artemis' mind to prove to them that Tigress is an enchanted disguise from a glamour charm and she isn't really dead. Cheshire, Artemis' sister, believes, but their emotionally abusive father doesn't. Instead, Artemis convinces him by using a fighting technique he taught her.
Cheshire: Come on, Crusher! Artemis is your daughter. Can't you feel her presence here?
Sportsmaster: This is just some Martian mind game. Right now, I don't even feel your presence.
- In many instances in the animal kingdom, a mother knows her offspring by their scent. The inverse is true as well, with animal babies identifying their mother the same way.
- Some animal species accomplish this via sound.
- Another example, which also appears under Flags of Our Fathers: The mother of one of the Marines who raised the famed flag over Iwo Jima recognized her son in the picture - from the back. She knew her own child's back and buttocks well enough that she insisted it was him even though officially, it wasn't. Eventually, she turned out to be right.
- Invoked by Frank Sinatra after his son's 1963 kidnapping; when asked if the whole thing could be a set-up or hoax of some kind, the elder Sinatra outright denied the notion since he knew that no matter what was going on in their relationship, he would never deliberately put his beloved mother through this pain.