Bean is such a dear to put to sleep. He gets in bed, we do a ritual, kisses and good nights, close door, walk away... wait 12 hours, good morning!
The ritual involves saying the child's prayer ("Now I lay me...") which was accomplished with a stuffed giraffe that recited the prayer when you pushed its toe, when Bean was an infant, but the batteries ran out, and the toy designer thought it wise to provide no access point through which to replace them. Smart designer. (It's fear-based design, if I had to bet on it. A child could somehow get into the access point - zipper, velcro, whatever - click open the battery cover, pop out the batteries, which would be oh so chokeable AAs or AAAs, and so, in the interest of avoiding litigation, they chose to create a toy that would die. Well, or/also, depending on how attached your child had become, you'd be compelled to frantically source a new, identical toy, with fresh batteries, and someone would make more money, again. Either reasoning works.) We still call that toy Nowilayme, but he lives in another room of the house.
Sprout was also given a Nowilayme toy, but somehow the voice on its recording sounds wrong, and it creeps me out to listen to it. So we don't play it for her. Beyond the fact that she has no bedtime ritual. No no, what am I saying? Sprout's bedtime ritual is, y'know, that nurse and then rock and then give a bottle and then rock and then gingerly lay down in a pre-warmed crib with the softest of 400 thread count baby sheets and cuddliest of unicorn fuzz and fairy sparkle blankets and fuss and return soother and collapse in bed and wait for her to cry and fuss and return soother and collapse in bed and wait for her to cry and pray she doesn't wake up her brother and just bring her to bed so we can finally gettosleepalready ritual. I'm sure you're familiar with it.
Like I said, Bean is such a dear to put to sleep.
Okay, so we say our prayers, which Bean doesn't really get, sometimes he closes his eyes, sometimes he holds our hands, but usually he wriggles around and waits for us to be done. Then, we run the checklist of bed toys. First, and of utmost importance, blanket. White, satin on one side, soft minkie on the other, lovely feminine blanket. He eschews the more masculine, blue options. Second, handmade stuffed alien-demon Mup Mup. Third, soft hippo-with-wheels. (These latter two, incidentally, both gifts from the same best friend; hi, K!) Fourth, sometimes, a small stuffed giraffe, named Giraffey, identical to another giraffe with the same uber-original name which belonged to Bean's daddy. Fifth, except it's lost right now, a weird Thomas the Tank Engine turn-y toy thing that Bean can play with for many minutes sans interruption. It sounds like a lot of bed toys, I know. I'm not even sure if he plays with them, or is especially attached to them (other than blanket) but, oh well, they're there. Bean sleeps with a t-shirt blanket I made, a blanket his grandma made, another blanket his daddy slept with as a baby, and a fleece blanket given by his great-aunts. It's a very full bed.
For a little while, Bean would request a song ("Dinkle dinkle" little star...) then say nono when I started singing. Then he'd request another song ("Baa baa" black sheep... the same melody, mind you) then say nono when I started singing. Then maybe a few other requests in there, but not usually. Then he'd point his arm to the door and say Go. Well then! Haven't I been told? lol
This transitioned; I'd ask if I should go, and he'd say nono Stay, and pat his pillow. Awwww, who can resist such commands? So I'd stay and pretend to nap, which involves clutching a "banket" with eyes squeezed shut and snoring exaggeratedly. He likes when we pretend to snore. We'd go back and forth on Go and Stay commands for a bit, and then I'd gently say it was time to go, and off I went.
This transitioned; for a week or two now, he's been going to bed regular time, but super over-tired and hyper. We weren't sure if we should move to an earlier bedtime, so he wouldn't get over-tired, but to be honest, I wasn't ready to risk the earlier mornings that might ensue. When he went to bed hyper, it'd take him a long time to settle (we can hear on the monitor. Yes we still use a monitor, don't judge :S) and then after a half hour or so, he'd wake up suddenly bawling. So one of us would go back upstairs to calm him down, do the songs, a second bedtime.
I think this may be a normal 2 year old thing. I've started calling it Testing the Tether - this sorting out of the radical notion that he is separate from us, that he is his own person. He's not at the I-can-do-it-myself phase, yet. Just testing it out, how far can I go, how far is too far, how do I get back, how do I get them to come to me, it's an exploration. I think he was testing the bedtime tether - where do I go when I sleep? are they sleeping, too? can I bring them back to me? am I still me when I sleep? or when I wake? Maybe it's scary, to him, to fall asleep sure of his self-ness, and wake up in a dark space disoriented and disconnected, and he pulls on the tether, as it were - where are you come back I need to see that you are still you, and that must mean I am still me. Am I over analyzing this? It's fairly heart-wrenching when he starts up with the crying, especially from a child who previously/otherwise goes to bed without much emotion.
When I'd go up to calm him, I lay down and sing Bruce's song. I had not been singing it very often, because he knew the words to request other songs, and so I followed his requests. But it is a lullaby after all, composed expressly to put the children in my world asleep. And now, he requests it by saying moon, because of the first line, "When moonlight falls..." And he covers his eyes, then holds his hands together for "You'll close your eyes/and say your prayers..." It's pretty much the most adorable thing ever.
He lets me sing the whole song without saying nono or Go. It calms him down, and then I can leave and know he will sleep. For some reason, at the last line "It's time for your lullaby" he always smiles, a lovely soft smile of anticipation, I wonder what he's thinking of... Tonight, he asked me to Stay and sing Moon during the first sleep-summoning ritual. It was effective *knock on wood* as we did not have the half-hour bawling and repeat ritual. So, we're singing our song, again. Makes me feel warm. Makes me feel, surely, I'm doing at least this thing right.