And bedtime can already be filled with enough tears, no need to add extra tears by reading a story sometimes but not others.
We have D on a pretty sturdy bedtime routine. It's worked for us since we started sleep training five months ago. And sure, there has been a rough bedtime here or there, but he understands what is expected of him when we finish our routine and place him in bed.
Typically he has dinner a mere forty minutes before bedtime. It's hard with work and the daily hustle and bustle of life to have dinner on the table and ready for any earlier than 6pm - especially when we don't get home until 6:20-6:30pm on work nights! Those nights, we're lucky, because Granny picks him up from daycare and brings him home to feed him the dinner we leave in the fridge. By 6:30pm, it's PJ time. Then we brush teeth and race to his room to read some stories. He gets a snuggle and a song, then we give him a kiss, put him in his crib and walk away. He rarely cries anymore when we leave because he has come to learn that we always come back in the morning. We like to have him in bed by 6:45pm, but sometimes I let him stay up an extra 15 minutes so I can spend more time with him.
It's hard to juggle work and home life when it means I get a short 45-60 minutes a day with him on those three days. But it's something I have come to accept because it means that I get three days home a week with him, plus one day home on my own to get household things completed. It is a fair trade, in my eyes.
Even when he wakes in the middle of the night, he understands the routine. We used to pick him up to give him a snuggle and song before putting him back in bed but we want him to learn to go back to sleep without a need for us so we've began a different routine for mid-night wakings.
We walk in and give him a kiss. Then ask him to lay down with Panda, his lovey. That is usually the point where Dean looks in his crib for Panda and then belly flops down on top and is out like a light. It's awesome to watch and hard not to laugh while he does it.
We've also begun to turn off his projector at night when we go to sleep so I think having the room darker is helping him stay asleep. Big thanks to A Kiss Goodnight Sleep Consultation and Counselling for their suggestion of keeping the room dark! We thought it was helping but it apparently might have been part of the reason for so many trips through the house at 2am, and again at 4am, and again at 5am...
It seems to be helping with his middle of the night wakings. The past couple nights, we haven't heard him at all (though I may be jinxing myself now...) and so I think he's finally figuring out this whole "I wake up, I go back to sleep" thing. AND! He's happy to hang out in bed in the morning, rather than freaking out the second he wakes up because he wants out of bed.
Which means more sleep for Mom and Dad! Booya!