Some of my earliest memories are of riding on the back of a motorcycle, behind my mom. And it wasn't just for a spin around the block. We were a missionary family and lived in countries where motorcycles were often the most practical or affordable means of transportation. (I grew up in Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Macau, and Singapore.)
But that wasn't the only unusual or outstanding thing about Mom. She always made a point to learn and fit into the local culture as much as she could, and she loved to communicate with people in their own language. She was also an expert at organizing fun, educational outings for us kids, and encouraged us to try local foods, sports, and ways of doing things.
I moved to Uganda as a young adult, and after a while Mom joined me. It was wonderful to see how quickly and well she adapted to Africa after having lived in Japan for many years. As always, she was eager to learn new things, studying various local dialects and learning all she could about the Ugandan culture. It wasn't long before she was greeting sellers at the street market in their own vernaculars. She got to know all of our Ugandan neighbors, right down to details of their children's education and interests, and she never hesitated to help a friend or stranger in need. She also hadn't lost her fun-loving, slightly reckless side. On one of her days off, she could be found riding her dirt bike to Lake Victoria, renting motorbikes for others of us to learn to ride, or her favorite—kayaking down the Nile.
The best moms, I've found, aren't necessarily perfect cooks or housekeepers, but they love their children completely and in their own way. They also set an example by living what they teach, and aren't afraid to let their children try new things and be themselves. And while they're at it, they enjoy life to the full.