WhAT is it with boys and balls, and I don’t mean anatomically? This week I have mostly been shouting “Watch the light fittings!”

I rue the day a red-suited white-bearded idiot gave the boys cushions that look like footballs for Xmas.

I once trained as a referee and although the licence has long lapsed, I gave them penalties for bad behaviour, red cards for inappropriate headers and threatened transfers to the US.

I’m looking forward to the end of the football season and a break from Saturday mornings shivering on touchlines. The village pitch must look like a quarry, we’ve carried so much top soil into the house on studded feet this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find gemstones in the Hoover bag.

The boys are in the thick of a footballing obsession, with table football dominating the front room and FIFA bursting from the Wii.

Every way I turn I’m faced by celebrity footballers: reclining on floors, laid out on the table, and pinned to walls like butterflies, a groundswell of Match Attax trading cards. At least they’re clean (though the tabloids may be full of their filthier pursuits).

The same can’t be said for The Youngest’s favourite toy, Real Rabbit, who’s not to be confused with the real rabbit in the hutch.

Once softly appealing, he now bears a striking resemblance to a knitted anglerfish that’s seen better days and whom you would cross the street to avoid if he loitered in a doorway with a dog on a string. His features have been loved away and his mends outnumber his original stitching ten to one.

Having a duplicate of a child’s special cuddly is the great safety net of parenting but at this I’ve failed miserably. A close match for Real Rabbit was unacceptably dissimilar and thrown from The Youngest’s pram with dictatorial certainty.

I did briefly have a duplicate of The Daughter’s favourite cuddly, enabling secret washing, until an accidental Boil Cycle turned one of the pair into an early antique. And that was a true mothering own goal. Esther Browning is festival director of Oxfordshire Artweeks in May. See artweeks.org