The Most Unlikely Source For Understanding Who You Are

In the 1992 film, A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean leaves his home in Missoula, Montana to attend Dartmouth University. He becomes a man of intellect and stature. When he returns six years later, the emotional distance between he, his wild younger brother, and his parents is palpable. One child left home; one turned to alcohol. The family past-time – fly fishing – serves only as a superficial connection. Later, his brother is bludgeoned to death with the butt-end of a pistol. Go figure.

If it seems like a commonplace storyline (minus the bludgeoning), that's because it is. Pre-globalization ideas of independence, self-sacrifice, bootstraps and whatnot perpetuate the lost child myth. However, the truth is that half of all Americans today live within 18 miles of their mothers. A recent Clark University poll found that 85% of millenials keep in touch with their parents weekly, and a stunning 37% communicate everyday.

People are turning to the most unlikely source of self- discovery in their parents. Here's why:

You've got their genes

Imagine buying a brand new pair of jeans for a night out with some friends. You find the perfect pair, slim-fit with a little bit of stretch to them just in case you want to drop it low. In reality, they're polyester garbage and they're not going to last you longer than the time it takes to drink two dirty martinis. But you don't know that.

So, there you are dancing the night away. You're getting glances. The music is pumpin', and you feel it – it's time to go low. You bend your knees, lean forward, and drop to the ground. The record skips (this club spins vinyl, apparently) and the whole crowd cranes its collective head as your bare behind falls from what used to be a seam in your perfect pair of jeans.

Had your mom been on that shopping trip with you she could have told you about that time she ripped her bell-bottoms while shaking it to Earth, Wind and Fire. Given that you have her figure when she was your age, and the fact that she knows you enjoy shaking what she - your mother - gave you, she could have also told you that perhaps those jeans wouldn't work out so well in long run.

The truth is you wouldn't have listened anyway. But this is what our parents are for, dropping little tidbits of wisdom that seem completely useless, until we find ourselves in a  moment where something they said proves useful.

They've been there and they've done that

You're headed out on a big vacation. You've packed absolutely everything you need. Your best friend pulls up to the curb and you hop into her car for a six- hour drive to the coast.

Now you're four hours in. Familiar sights have given way to unfamiliar landmarks. There's a rumble, then a sudden drop on the passenger side. Pulling off to check it out, you discover a nail in your friend's tire. You're not sure what to do, but calling your parents is the last thing on your list of ideas. That's a bummer, because if you had given them a call you would have learned two things:  1) Your second-cousins own a body shop about a half mile from where you're standing, and 2) this same thing happened to Mom and Dad on their first trip to the beach.

Looks like you're not so original after all.

They're keeping (useful) secrets 

Do you know where you were conceived? Let's hope not. But it serves as an example of something your parents are keeping from you. While there's not much to learn there besides contraception having come a long way, other secrets are a treasure trove of wisdom.

Try this: Interview your mother or father. You're sure to discover that even the most conservative mom has a moment in their past that still makes them blush, and even the most by-the-book dad a few rule breaking escapades he'd rather soon forget.

The more you learn about your parents, the more you learn about yourself

That feeling of doubt you wake up with everyday – that your goals are bologna, that you don't know what you really believe, that you're not sure you're in the right place, that you're not sure where the right place would be if you went looking for it – they lived it, too.

Not only did they live through it; they continue to live through it.

The idea that older men and women have seen enough of the world to form a complete opinion is ridiculous to people who lived through Civil Rights, Vietnam, or the dawn of the Information Age.

Don't mistake your parents for stubborn fools. Instead, learn to grow alongside them. As you do so you'll learn things about them that you'll cherish, and maybe understand a little more about yourself as well.