Make your mum smile by cooking a delicious breakfast, and she won't care about the toast crumbs in the bedsheets.
Crumbs in the sheets. It always comes down to crumbs in the sheets. For breakfast-in-bed refuseniks, toast bits in the bedlinen are enough to render the whole thing an abomination. But done right, and with crumbs kept to a minimum, breakfast in bed is a lovely tradition, not just for Mother's Day, but for Father's Day, anniversaries, celebrating good news or just the arrival of the weekend. There's not much data on the subject, but a 2008 survey revealed one in five Brits have never been made breakfast in bed. The same survey showed 74% of Brits think breakfast in bed is dying out, and believe it will be extinct by the end of this decade. Let's not make a dodo of in-bed eating for the sake of a few crumbs. It's time for a revival. With a few modifications.
My brother and I made breakfast in bed for our mum every Mother's Day. We'd tiptoe upstairs, wobbling a tray with a picture of a cat in a flower bed on it, obscured by the spilt orange juice and tea sloshing around on top. There would invariably be a card from Clintons, daffs nicked from the garden, rock-hard eggs and ragged soldiers. Breakfast at The Wolseley it was not. But Mum always feigned delight and for us it was an early lesson in the joys of making food for someone you love. Even if we didn't always clean up afterwards. "Breakfast in bed is a special thing for children to do," says food writer Jo Pratt. "It teaches them about being organised, and makes them realise how much work is involved. They get to feel they're looking after Mummy, so if they want to do it you've got to embrace it."
"Breakfast in bed on Mother's Day can be a lovely thing, with a little forward planning and artful offstage direction," says Mumsnet founder, Justine Roberts. "The key to success is to give mums a genuine break. This means a real lie-in free from disturbance, until offering a breakfast in bed that has been supervised sufficiently to avoid burnt offerings and that doesn't leave the kitchen in chaos."
So if cleaning the kitchen afterwards is the first rule of successful breakfast in bed, what are the others? "Arrange everything properly," says Seb Emina, author of The Breakfast Bible. "Pillows are important - they need a decent set to support both back and head when they are sitting upright. You don't want to be at less than a 90-degree angle when you're eating. Don't forget the small touches either - flowers, music and a handmade card or drawing."
"The gestures are more important than the food," says food writer Anjum Anand. Remembering the recipient's breakfast preferences goes a long way: "Turning up with a milky coffee if a strong black cup is their preferred drink will only cause disappointment," is one obvious tip from the Mumsnet boards.
Which brings us to the food. If breakfast in bed is to survive, we fans need to acknowledge its drawbacks. "Crumbs in the sheets" is a legitimate grievance. No mum wants to spend Mother's Day dustbusting the duvet. Smelly foods are another no-no. The scent of kippers embedded in the curtains or the lingering fragrance of fried pig make for rubbish gifts.
"For me, a good breakfast in bed needs to be a really clean bowl of something - no crumbs, no milk droplets, no bits of egg," says Anjum Anand. Bircher muesli is ideal. You can soak the oats overnight, then the kids can throw in things like raisins and grapes in the morning - customise it to what people like."
Tonia George, author of Breakfast and Brunch, recommends granola parfaits: "layer fruit, yoghurt and granola in a glass. Blood oranges are in season and look beautiful cut horizontally. Cook them in a little sugar and place on top of the parfait." If you're determined to go down the toast route, she suggests French toast as "it keeps crumbs at bay."
American-style pancakes are a good dish to make with kids, says Pratt. "They can help make the batter and add Mum's favourite flavours, before an adult cooks them."
Recipients are likely to appreciate a light breakfast. "The best breakfasts in bed are a Hobbit-style two-parter," says Emina. "Bring them a snack and tea first, and then eat a proper breakfast later at the table." "A smoothie is perfect," says Pratt. "Children can help put the fruit in the blender, then bring it to you in bed with a kiss and a cuddle. The thought is more important than the size of the meal."
And if you're the recipient of a crumby, sticky breakfast in bed that ignores all this advice? Just grin and bear it, appreciate the gesture if not the food, and start dropping hints about a spa voucher for next year.
Are you a fan of breakfast in bed? Which breakfast-in-bed dishes do you make for loved ones?
Photograph: Hein van den Heuvel/Corbis