Finally, FINALLY we've got a new functional bedtime system. (All parenting is about systems, isn't it?) For ages bedtime around here was pretty easy. Clark was a dream: plop him in his crib and wave goodnight as you close the door behind you. Frances sometimes argued and negotiated but you can't have everything.
Then a couple of months ago everything changed. It's all Clark's doing--we moved him into a toddler bed and he literally could not stay in it. It was like his feet were physically pulled to the floor. There was lots of carrying him back to bed, back to bed, back to bed, discussing with him, possible threatening, then more simple repetition. Finally we moved him back to the crib, which helped for about 2 days. (For a split second I really thought we were onto something there--that maybe he didn't feel safe in the toddler bed or something, and that being in the crib would solve the problem.) Then he just climbed out of the crib over and over.
Finally he impressed upon us that he wants someone to sit in his room until he falls asleep. Some new fear / insecurity that he's developed, also probably related to his insisting that all the lights stay on like it's daylight in there. (For a short time I would sneak in after he'd fallen asleep and turn them off, leaving a closet light with plenty of light to see by, but he'd just wake at 3 am and insist that the lamps be turned on too...) So these days someone sits in the armchair by the crib until he falls asleep. We'll only stay if he doesn't talk or sing or bang on is crib in an effort to keep himself awake. Now that he trusts we'll be there, doesn't have to argue with us and chase after us, he actually falls asleep pretty quickly. I bring reading material--it's certainly bright enough to read, after all. I have Frances read to herself on her bed while I sit in Clark's room; I tell her I'll come back and lie with her for a few minutes after. And sometimes by the time Clark's fallen asleep, Frances has too.
So. Whew. It's funny the way things move in stages with kids. So often it's hard to spot; you think this new thing is some personality flaw or parenting failure, something you need to address and fix, only to discover a month later that it was a phase and just passed on its own. It would be so much more helpful if the phases would announce themselves.
For now, though, bedtime is no longer a 2 hour ordeal. So happy.