When my little sister was about five, she went through a wretched, horrific separation anxiety stage. It manifested itself in two ways that I clearly remember:
1) she would NOT got to bed
2) she would NOT go to Kindergarten
She was the child who would sit at the bottom of the stairs and scream up (my parents have a reverse two-story) for one more glass of water, then a glass of milk - first hot, then cold, then it was in the wrong glass, then she was hungry, or needed another story, another song. And being the aspiring little mommy-helper I was, I would often volunteer to read Goodnight Moon for the eleven thousandth time or bring her her "pink milk" (acidophilus came in a pink carton). But it didn't help. The final solution was to lock her in her bedroom and ignore the wailing. Most mornings we would find her passed out on the floor on the other side of the door.
The solution to the kindergarten problem was that I would be the one to walk her to class in the morning. If mom or dad did it, she would just NOT let go of them. Even when I took her, about half the time she would run back out to the car screaming and crying hysterically. Once she even ran out into the parking lot traffic.
So I'm sure you can see why this bedtime thing is troubling me. About a week ago Alex started in with the patented stalling techniques: the repeated requests for water, additional hugs, more boob/hair, cover me with a blanky, not the blue one, the dot-dot (polka dot) one. At first I humored him and gave in. But it got old fast and I could see the little wheels working in his toddler brain.
So my strategy is to tell him in advance exactly what we're doing each night. "I'm going to nurse you and then give you a big hug and a big kiss and then put you in your crib. Then I'm going downstairs to read a book. Not a picture book, but a book with all words. Daddy will be using the computer. And we're not coming back upstairs again."
I'm trying to stress to him that we aren't blowing bubbles and watching Caillou and having a party every night after he goes to bed. I sense that much of his trouble is that he doesn't want to miss anything. Poor kid. I hope the crying is shorter tonight...