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A common Stock Phrase. A character tells another that they're like a son or daughter to them, possibly even "the son I never had." Often subverted.
Compare Parental Substitute, A Father to His Men for military examples. See also Like Brother and Sister. A protagonist would absolutely kill to hear this from their "Well Done, Son" Guy, if they've got one.
Frequently a form of So Proud of You.
- In Naruto, the titular character has two specific relationships invoking this trope.
- The first is with his Academy instructor, Iruka Umino, who openly states that Naruto is like a little brother to him and becomes a Parental Substitute to Naruto in the first episode of the series. It's this influence in Naruto's life that has kept him from becoming a psychotic killer — like, for example, Gaara.
- The second is Jiraiya, who often treated Naruto like a grandson. This relationship is later confirmed after Jiraiya's death by Iruka, who tells Naruto that Jiraiya was always bragging about him and had mentioned multiple times that he thought of Naruto as a grandson.
- Of course, the more revelations about the backstory come about, the more Fridge Logic has the fans going, 'wait...Jiraiya was like a father to Naruto's dad, and is responsible for his name, and never appeared in his whole childhood?' 'Seriously, Naruto's dad took care of Kakashi after he was orphaned and Kakashi didn't appear in Naruto's life until the Hokage made him, and even then mostly ignored him?' Shinobi are bad at interpersonal responsibility. It seems to have something to do with a reaction to all those people dying.
- In Fushigi Yuugi, Tamahome's mentor Tokaki urges him to leave with Miaka and the Suzaku Seishi as the building they're in begins to collapse, all the while telling him to take care and that he cares for his protegee like a son. As in most other cases, Tamahome's father was already dead when Tokaki said this, but what's touching is when Tamahome then calls Tokaki "father".
- Lone Wolf and Cub: The very last panel of the series is of a fatally wounded Retsudo Yagyu declaring the recently orphaned Daigoro his "grandson of the heart".
- Madame Red, Ciel's maternal aunt, in Black Butler thinks of him like one. This would save his life and cost Madame Red her life.
- In the "Dragonball Z" anime, when Piccolo gives his life to save Gohan, he refers to him as "the son he never had."
- 'Bleach: In the Soul Society arc, Yamamoto tells Ukitake and Kyouraku they are like sons to him just to emphasise exactly why he's he's not simply going to whip their hides for betraying him but will instead obliterate them off the face of the earth.
- Apparently Norman Osborn thinks Peter Parker makes a better son than Harry.
- In the Ultimate Six comic mini-series, the group (Only five at the moment) break out of a SHIELD prison and Osborn says they need to look for 'his boy.' When Otto Octavius asks where Harry is being kept, Osborn's response is: "What are you talking about? My boy's name is Peter."
- Superman and Supergirl (at least the pre- and post-crisis Kara Zor El, and Linda Danvers...it's confusing..) have this kind of relationship, which is fairly reasonable, since he's her much-older cousin.
- The Ancient One frequently calls Doctor Strange "my adopted son" or simply "my son."
- In Any Given Sunday, Tony says to Rooney, "You're like a son to me Cap, I'd fight for you till the day I die".
- Carbon Copy
Nelson Longhurst: Walter, you were like a son to me. But as you well know, having a son can turn out to be a bitter disappointment.
- Joshua Tree
Lt. Franklin L. Severence: I never said Santee was a friend. I said he was like a son to me.
- Kill Bill Volume 2
Esteban Vihaio: Bill is like a son to me.
- King Arthur
Cerdic: Raewald. You're second-in-charge now. Yeah, you're like a son to me.
- In the Tower of Terror movie, this was the relationship between Sally Shine and Emmeline Partriage, her nanny. Partriage is shocked when Anna accuses her otherwise.
- Molly Weasley referred to Harry Potter this way.
- And he actually becomes her son-in-law.
- In The Dark Tower, Roland feels this way about Jake.
- In Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots, Bradshaw is surprised by the news about Vern because he was -- this trope.
- Although it never actually gets said, Halt from Ranger's Apprentice thinks of Will this way.
- In Teresa Frohock's Miserere An Autumn Tale, in the Backstory, John said, "You were my son" to Lucian before Lucian was dragged off for his crimes.
- In the Warrior Cats series, Yellowfang tells Fireheart that he was like this to her - that he's more like her son than the cat she gave birth to, Brokentail.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Restless"
Giles: Spike's like a son to me.
- To clarify, that was a zany dream. Spike is not like a son to Giles. Xander is. And Willow and Buffy are like daughters.
- When everyone lost their memories in Tabula Rasa and started trying to reconstruct their relationships, Spike decided he was Giles' son while Giles seemed to think Spike must be his younger brother.
- While never explicitly said, the relationship between the Mayor and his Dragon Faith definitely has the same father/daughter connotations.
- To clarify, that was a zany dream. Spike is not like a son to Giles. Xander is. And Willow and Buffy are like daughters.
- Neal and Peter on White Collar. Oddly, Mozzie is the first person to point out the father-son relationship between Peter and Neal. In the third season episode Upper West Side Story, Peter is posing as a man enrolling his son in a prep school as part of an undercover assignment. Someone at the school asks Peter about his son. Peter doesn't have a biological son, so he describes Neal instead.
"He's very intelligent, but impulsive. His moves tend to land him in trouble...Well, I wanna give him the best shot at life. I know it's gonna cost me."
- The Doctor Who episode "The End of Time Part 2" has a variation:
The Master: (to the Doctor) Oh, your dad's still kicking up a fuss.
Wilfred Mott: No, but I'd be proud if I was.
- Sarah and Maria in The Sarah Jane Adventures. At the end of "The Last Sontaran", Maria is leaving. Sarah Jane tells her she's losing the daughter she had always wanted. *sob*
- Supernatural: Even though he doesn't say it out loud, its obvious that Bobby loves Dean and Sam like they were his sons. He even tells Dean in the season 3 finale that, "Family don't end with blood"
- On several occasions Al Bundy spoke to/of someone as "the son he never had"-at least once in front of Bud.
- In one episode of MASH, Colonel Blake tells Radar "You're like a son to me." What makes this even more adorable is that at the exact same time, Radar says "Sometimes I felt like you were my father."
- All but actually said in The West Wing with President Bartlett and Charlie especially when President Bartlett passes on to Charlie his family knife that has been given from father to son.
- He also refers to Josh as his son in "Two Cathedrals".
- Josh also tells CJ that Bartlet thinks of her as a daughter.
- Implied with Martin and Daphne on Frasier, especially when Martin becomes lonely when Daphne moves in with Niles and tries to get Daphne to promise to visit more often by using the fact that Eddie will miss her as a transparent excuse. Also given a Sibling Rivalry-like turn when Daphne gets jealous of Frasier's new girlfriend Claire because Claire and Martin dote on each other and Martin clearly wants Frasier to marry her and make her Martin's daughter-in-law.
Martin: Her laugh's just like music isn't it?
Daphne (wistfully): You used to think my laugh was musical...Remember, Marty?
Martin: Yeah, but I'm used to it now.
- Larry Sizemore calls Michael Westen this in Burn Notice. Subverting the usual associations of this trope, it is not a heartwarming moment- Larry is a former Evil Mentor and Michael has daddy issues.
- In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Admiral Adama has repeatedly told Kara "Starbuck" Thrace that she is like a daughter to him.
- Sarge uses this line in Red vs. Blue at one point.
Sarge: Grif, if you see Lopez, tell him I forgive him. Tell him, he was like a son to me.
Grif: I thought Simmons was like a son to you.
Sarge: No offense, Simmons. Lopez and I just understood each other better.
Simmons: Understood? He refused to speak English.
Grif: Yeah, and he ran away the first chance he got.
Simmons: And now he's trying to kill you with a remote control jeep.
Sarge: Ahhhh, what a little rascal.
- In Sam and Max, a talking baby cockroach hatches in front of Sam's eyes and thinks he is his "papa". Sam's response:
Sam: Now I am, little champion...NOW I AM!
- Played from an outside point of view in Golden Sun Dark Dawn, when Tyrell observes that King Paithos acts like an overprotective dad around his nephew Amiti, and even phrases it "he's like a son to you".
- In the ending of Mass Effect 3, Anderson tells Shepard that s/he is like the child he never had. While it is a touching moment, it is unusual since several other sources state that Anderson does indeed have a son, albeit one that he's very distant from.
Grace: You're like a father to me!
Mr. Verres: ...But you're my son's girlfriend.
Grace: We're a strange family.
- During the first season finale of ~Avatar: The Last Airbender~, Iroh tells Zuko, "Ever since I lost my son... I think of you as my own."
- And once Zuko sorts out his issues, he comes to think of Iroh as his father.
- Home Movies: Coach McGuirk says Eddie is "like the son I never had... or don't know about."
- Coach McGuirk's relationship with Brendon varies between being an Intergenerational Friendship to being somewhat like father and son. McGuirk even becomes noticeably jealous of Brendon's relationship with his actual father for much of season two.
- In the episode Frankendoodle, Spongebob says this about his creation, Doodlebob.
- In the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh!, during the anime-only Virtual Nightmare Arc, the Virtual Ghost of Seto Kaiba's abusive adoptive father angrily tells Seto he treated him better than his own son.
Seto: Thanks. For nothing.
- In the newspaper-comic Drabble, Norm makes his father a sundae, prompted this exchange:
Ralph: Wow, thanks, Norm! You're like a son to me!
Norm: Dad, I am your son!
Ralph: *clearly not paying attention, focused on eating* Oh, yeah huh.
- What Happens in Vegas
Jack Fuller Sr.: You're like a son to me.
Jack Fuller: Dad, I am your son.
- Kasper Gutman: I couldn't be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it's possible to get another. There's only one Maltese Falcon.
- In Sgt. Bilko
Bilko:(lovingly spoken) Ah, Doberman. The son I never wanted.
*Doberman seems delighted to hear this*
- In The Three Musketeers and its sequels, Athos sometimes calls D'Artagnan "my son" in moments of great affection, even after he has a real son.
- An absolutely ridiculous example in Mastiff. Tunstall tells this to Beka . . . while trying to kill her.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: An untrustworthy slaver boasts that he will treat his latest set of captives -- including Lucy, Edmund, Eustace Scrubb, and the young King Caspian -- as though they were his own children. Lord Bern sarcastically replies, "That's likely enough to be true."
- Subverted in the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, where General Melchett tells Kevin Darling that he's "like a son to him" - not a favorite son, though.
"Lord no, more a sort of illegitimate back-stair sort of sprog. Y'know, the sort of spotty squid that nobody really likes."
- Parodied in Arrested Development when GOB refers to his son as "the father I never had".
- In the Doctor Who telemovie, the Master claims Chang Lee is "the son I've always yearned for." The Doctor is not convinced ("Oh, please.") -- and moments later, the Master snaps Lee's neck.
- From In Plain Sight as Rafael is moving in with the Shannons before marrying Mary
Brandi: So I guess I'm like the little sister you never had, huh?
Rafael: I have three sisters. All little.
- Later deconstructed, impressively. One of the witnesses flips on his criminal buddies after they kill the "son he never had" . . . except the witness had a son, who he couldn't connect with or accept, and who was rightfully jealous of the son substitute. Their relationship is . . . messy.
- From a deleted scene from Flight of the Conchords:
Eddie: Bret, I like you. You're like a son to me. You remind me of my niece.
- On That 70s Show, Kelso wants to buy a great car from Leo. As they're about to make the final deal, however, Leo recalls that he had originally planned to give that car to his long-lost son and said that he couldn't bear to sell it, which Kelso can understand. Leo then immediately gives the car to Hyde, calling him the son he never had (as opposed to that long-lost son that he did have). Needless to say, Kelso was annoyed.
"That snorkel's been just like a snorkel to me!"
- In Big The Musical, MacMillian sings of Josh, "My god, he's like the son I never had!" Josh notices a picture on MacMillian's desk and asks, "Who's that?" "That's the son I had," MacMillian replies.
Hank: He was like the son I never had until I actually had one.
- In one episode of Hey Arnold!, Arnold makes friends with a baseball-loving millionaire who says he is "like the son he never had." Then Arnold finds out the man actually does have a son, and spends the rest of the episode trying to help the two of them find a way to connect with each other.
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the mayor tells both Brent and Flint that they're like sons to him, but it is clear he's being insincere in both instances.
"And without further ado, our town's hero and my metaphorical son, Flint Lockwood!"
Glenn the Janitor: Ponce was like a son to me, probably because he was my foster son.
- Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz's dad had a dog named Only Son that he considered like the son he never had, despite the fact that he already had a son (and would later have another).
- The Disney Movie "Atlantis."
- Carl almost says this to Meatwad on Aqua Teen Hunger Force while trying to get his ticket to the Super Bowl, but reconsiders midsentence, resulting in:
"Ever since my son was...never conceived because I never had consensual sex without money involved, I've looked at you as a... a thing I could live next door to, in accordance with state law. Now are we going to the Super Bowl or not?"