jen asks for advice

Alright internets, I need your counsel. And rather than consulting the many cross conflicting parenting books I am instead turning to the village.

Here's the deal: M has been a champion sleeper for the past 2 1/2 years. About two months ago she started waking in the night and refusing to go back to sleep in her own bed. Often I'd just wake up in the morning and find her next to me, J relegated to the couch. We've talked to her about it a lot and she claims to simply not like sleeping in her bed anymore. Nothing has happened, no nightmares, nothing scary, that we can ascertain (other than turning three). So night after night we are suffering with broken sleep and toddler feet in our faces and to be honest, we've let her manipulate us because she seems so entirely sincere in her pleading that she really needs to do this right now. And she's really adorable about it but then it's not so cute at 1am. We always make her go to bed in her room at bedtime (which is also a consistent ritual thank you very much) no matter how she pleads but she'll wake up and eventually find her way out. Have we shot the whole self-soothing mechanism to pieces?

I am left in a conundrum. Tow the parenting line and listen to her weep in her bed? Allow her this time to sort out whatever she is going through (and hope to freaking god she's not still in bed with us when she's twelve)? I've always strived to find the balance in listening to her needs and trying to meet them while maintaining a sense of order and consistency but this one has thrown us - mostly because I simply want to do the right thing and my heart says she needs this and my head says I am being worked over like an old car in one of those crushing machines at a junkyard, screeching metal and all.

So I am turning to you. Has this happened to you and if so, how did you resolve it? Does it resolve naturally? Do the little people sometimes simply need this closeness or are they cunning little wizards who dive into the weak spots? Where's the line? And where's the love? Give it to me straight.