I feel so frustrated, because weeks ago we found a perfect bedtime routine for our 2-year-old (27 months). We would do pajamas, brush teeth, hugs and kisses, then 2 songs, one in his room and one out of the room with the door cracked. This worked! After 2 years of intensive baby-soothing and eventually pretending to be asleep while rubbing his back in just the right way - this worked. I should have known it would be a temporary miracle. Now he is skipping naps most days, after running out of his room, requesting food, more songs, etc. - until we are wound up and he is more than happy to move onto something fun. At bedtime, which is 8 at the latest (my rule on no nap days), he is fighting the same way, but exhausted and overtired. He will not get in bed on his own anymore, and will kick and scream if I do it for him. When he is in, he yells and cries to eat bananas (he is hungry for a snack sometimes), requests certain stuffed animals, etc. If I don't meet the need fast enough, he will run out of his room, sit on the couch in the next room and "pretend" to sleep there, while smiling. AAAAHHH! If there was an emoticon for tearing one's hair out, I would put it here!
I feel more and more angry about this, and I guess the "meanest" thing I've done is to put him back in bed, over and over again, while he screams and kicks. But this just doesn't seem sustainable and I don't like myself as a parent while doing this. Plus he seems to dislike sleeping more and more every day and this might have something to do with it.
And backstory - I do have a 2 month old that I have to set down to do the hands-on work of it all, including of course the hugs and kisses! He also is starting to develop fears of certain animals and I reassure him and talk about the animals when he brings it up (e.g. some of the animals are "helpers" or some live far away and mama and daddy keep you safe, they can't get in the house, etc.) He has a night light and a bed full of stuffed friends. My DH does bedtime at least half the time and it always goes better for him, but I have to do the lion's share soon when he goes back to working nights half the time.
I want to be a better nighttime parent, in a realistic way. I want an actual plan, because the way I do it on the fly pretty much sucks. I now miss the days of lying with him as he fell asleep. I can't do this with the baby, who has to be patted and rocked a lot. I miss my sweet time with my boy.
After dinner we did bath time, jammies, teeth and hair brushing, etc. then we snuggled up in bed (the child's bed if separate) and read for half an hour, then a lullabye or two and quiet cuddles until the child fell asleep. As often as not the exhausted parent fell asleep too. :/ I loved this routine as a child, and as a parent it worked well for a couple years. It stopped working because my DD couldn't NOT talk to me if I was in the room, and so kept herself awake. At that point she could read independently so I instituted "quiet time". We began our bedtime routine a bit earlier to allow for it, then after I read and sang to her she got an hour alone in bed to read as many books as she wanted. She had to stay quiet and stay in bed or her quiet time was over. Usually she was asleep by the time I came to turn the lights out after an hour, if not she got another lullabye, hug & kiss, and tucked in with her teddy bear then lights out. Now she's ten and she does the bathing, brushing and jammies part herself but I still tuck her in with a lullabye most nights, and she spends an hour reading before she falls asleep.
Perhaps your son is acting out because he misses the sweet special bedtime routine you had in the past? Is there a way to add the baby in to your sons evening to make it work better for all of you? Maybe you can sing him a song, then sit quietly near him nursing the baby while he falls asleep? Just brainstorming here, I'm no expert.
Wishing you lots of luck finding something that works for your family!