You would tell me, wouldn't you, if this column was starting to sound like a round robin? Every Christmas my parents receive one from the daughter of an old friend and it never fails to throw us all in to a parenting inadequacy crisis. I could simply reprint it here and you would think I was doing a rather brilliant parody of the genre, but then I would feel morally obliged to give Mother Robin the fee which she would doubtless spend on adding to her offspring's talents, making next year's newsletter even more difficult to stomach. So instead I offer you unedited highlights and the chance to enter a competition. A year's supply of tap dancing, choral singing and floral artistry lessons for the oldest child of the reader who can rival this with a round robin from a more highly achieving family.
Let's begin with the youngest child, who has just started secondary school. "He enjoys most sports, especially tennis. However, his singing and music making continue to dominate his after school schedule, adding trombone to keyboard earlier this year (very successful source of sisterly irritation!) He had a great time with the County Boys Choir in July in a joint concert with a visiting Eisteddfod choir ... He has also just had a second audition for the National Youth Music Theatre in London - all great experience". (The seemingly casual asides in round robins are an art in themselves - without being too explicit, and thereby bringing down the unassailably positive tone, you can read in them the down side of Perfect Family Life. In other words: young Robert didn't get in. Yesss!)
But onwards and upwards. After a long list of the family's theatrical triumphs we get to middle daughter's accomplishments. "Clare, like Andrea, sings in two school choirs and church choir. She also plays her clarinet in the school band and youth music group. She likes gym, especially trampolining, and tennis and swimming." Andrea, meanwhile, "probably has too many interests and persuading her to cut back in her GCSE year is proving equally challenging. She has become a school prefect this year and been awarded her choir colours. Her great relaxation is the piano and she hopes to do Grade 6 at Easter. She is taking 10 GCSEs..."
I shall spare you the husband's triumphs but suffice to say (in round robin speak that means I'm going to tell you anyway), they involve hot air ballooning, scaling Monroes and chairmanship of the local tennis club...
Entries, please, to Unbearably Talented Robins Competition, The judges - me and my nephew Joel who "probably has too few interests" (his mother found persuading him to get out of bed in his GCSE year particularly challenging) - reserve the right to withhold the prize in the interests of your child's development.