I’m not a doctor, therapist or anything other than another mom speaking from her own experience. I can say that you’re not alone in this and that it WILL pass. When it does, I daresay that you will to some extent miss this time.
I have a tendency to be long-winded, so to prevent that I will briefly list the things that helped me.
1. Don’t let society determine what works for you and your child as far when the child is capable of sleeping on their own. Society can’t even determine a single “normal” because it’s a concept and not a reliable fact. External influences such as societal “norms” or milestones don’t have to be YOUR goals with YOUR child. You have enough to deal with in your own home than what society says is “normal” and struggling to meet those.
2. Your child won’t be this way forever. One day, you’ll miss the unconditional cuddling and their open and innocent opinions. Don’t forget there are other parents (single or otherwise) with older children that say, “I miss when mine were that age.” Your child is still developing and changing, regardless whether you’re ready for it or not. I hear that you want your child to take on this mantle of growth, but they’re simply not ready yet for whatever reason. I don’t think ANY child is aware of the reasons other than they still need their parent for THIS particular closeness. Your child WILL outgrow this.
3. When mine was about 3 or 4, and we were co-sleeping, I had to roll over and tell my child, “Okay. I need to go to sleep and so do you. I’m going to face this way because otherwise you’ll keep talking and have trouble sleeping.” I’d be asleep before him, I’m sure. I was so exhausted though from the day’s efforts that I really just didn’t care. He stayed in bed and didn’t disturb me so we were safe as far as welfare was concerned. He would be the one that was tired the next day, not me. He got a nap during the day, not me. It evened out. He got used to me saying good night and meaning it.
4. When mine was about 5 or 6, I converted his toddler bed to the full size bed (a good quality crib convertible). He wanted to sleep where mom was sleeping. Okay, so mom was sleeping with kiddo still. In kid’s bed. Until he was snoring. Sometimes, I was asleep for a few hours there; sometimes I’d lay there just until he was snoring. He felt safe enough to sleep. From the time he was on the mattress to when I thought him ready to fall asleep, we’d talk about “best part of the day” and “worst part of the day”. We’d read a story. We’d laugh about crazy silly stuff, but we were spending one on one conversational time. Yeah, it’d take some time (about an hour to an hour and a half), but I’d rather spend that time on a happier note and calm, winding him down that way than fighting and too emotional to sleep. As a result, I’ve learned his body cues that he’s ready to fall asleep.
5. At 9 years of age, we’re still using the above method in point 4. However, it’s not a battle. I sat down with him to make a schedule nearly a year ago. I gave him the parameters (8 hours of sleep, 1 – 2 hours for homework, 1 – 2 hours for play time, etc.). He arranged when these events happen over the course of the day. So he grumbles about getting into PJs and brushing his teeth. He knows he set it up so there’s no argument. He will try and manipulate me, “I’ll see you in a little bit, mom.” Sometimes I’ll go and read a story with him. Sometimes, I’ll just let him fall asleep on his own. Rarely, does he have a nightmare where he wakes me and asks to sleep with me.
I have found ABA methods have reached my son the best and Love and Logic methods work best for me relating to my son. It’s still a challenge and would say 90 – 99% of child rearing is perspective. I hope you find some help in what I’ve listed as well as with the guidance of others here. You are a GREAT mom who LOVES her child. You’re doing fine.