Seth Yanklewitz + Doug Wiand on same-sex adoption and gay parenting
On the receiving end of a historical victory and momentous shift in social consciousness — SETH YANKLEWITZ and DOUG WIAND have quite a load in their lives to celebrate. It’s couples like them who have epitomized for years the reason all couples should have the right to marry and practice same-sex adoption.
Seth is an EMMY nominated Casting Director and the Vice President of Casting at FOX Broadcasting Company, overseeing Emmy nominated shows such as NEW GIRL (which garnered him his first Emmy nomination), LAST MAN on EARTH and X FILES — and some of the Network’s best shows, THE GRINDER, GOTHAM and GREASE LIVE! The casting department oversees all the actors that appear in all the shows on the Network. He’s in a coveted slot and he has the superb talent, charisma and likability to park it for a lifetime stay at the Network.
Doug is a sought after LA-based home stager and has extended his business to interior design. He’s the top pick in LA’s real estate agents’ Rolodex who can ready up your home when you put it on the market. He makes any space feel balanced with a Utopian domestic comfort — and the execution of his vision promises prospective buyers a lifetime of happiness. On top of that, Doug has been known to get homes staged quickly(!)– allowing him to consequently receive multiple offers over opening weekends.
Seth and Doug are husband and husband — and it was love at first sight, six years ago.
They love each other and their lucky lives — but their enviable bliss has been kicked up a notch over these past 3 years.
Just over 3 years ago, this couple became parents for the first time to a perfect baby boy named Solomon Henry.
Not only does this duo epitomize why same sex couples should have the same rights to marry — but why they should have the same rights to be dedicated and loving parents as well.
Good parenting is not influenced by sexual orientation. Rather, it is influenced most profoundly by a parent’s ability to create a loving and nurturing home — an ability that does not depend on whether a parent is gay or straight.
Most research studies show that children with two moms or two dads fare just as well as children with heterosexual parents. In fact, one comprehensive study of children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers concluded that children raised by same-sex parents did not differ from other children in terms of emotional functioning, sexual orientation, stigmatization, gender role behavior, behavioral adjustment, gender identity, learning and grade point averages. Where research differences have been found, they have sometimes favored same-sex parents. For example, adolescents with same-sex parents reported feeling more connected at school. Another study reported that children in gay and lesbian households are more likely to talk about emotionally difficult topics, and they are often more resilient, compassionate and tolerant.
These guys succeed in everything they do — but, tenfold in terms of their fatherhood successes. Solomon is an unbeatable kid. One of the most happy, brilliant, jovial, athletic and empirically beautiful 3-year-olds one could meet. I asked these two to fill me in on their how-tos.
How do you define a happy child and a happy adult? And what are your top 3 tips on parenting that would lead to that?
When we adopted Solomon, the pediatrician in Pittsburgh looked at us and said this will be a very interesting case of nature vs. nurture. And I think at that every moment Doug and I looked at each other and said that no matter what, we will always smile and bring joy when we are near Solomon. Because he was already born (we got the call the day after he was born), we didn’t go through the process of the pregnancy. We didn’t necessarily know all that happened during the pregnancy — we were determined to create a life of joy, love and laughter. We always went into the room smiling — and any time we were near Solomon, we were smiling. I actually think that is the initial precursor to having a happy kid. Them always feeling the energy of love and happiness.
[We] read in one of the parenting books that newborns should always feel a caress, a holding of the hand, a gentle touch — all indications of safety and security — them feeling love. So, when we would go on stroller rides or for a walk, I’d always hold his hand. I’d always rub his cheek. Little things. Doug always says that we have the happiest kid.
One of the philosophies of our pediatrician, which we adopted early on, was to speak directly to Solomon and explain everything to him, always. So we always talked to him like an adult; we’ve never spoken in baby talk. It just wasn’t who we were — and I know it built a trust. We’d go into the doctor’s office and she’d say, “Solomon, this is a stethoscope and I’m going to listen to your heart.” And he lets her do everything. And that’s the edict we live by. We always talk to him and explain what we’re doing so that he is fully aware of what is happening to him, with him and for him.
…….and a happy adult? Well, that’s a whole other bag of psychological stuff (laughs).
What elements would you look at when he’s an adult that would tell you that he has achieved success?
When he’s a doctor. (laughs)
When he’s rich and famous. (laughs)
Seriously, I think if he is happy, he is kind to people, does what he falls in love with in life, then he will have achieved success. My parents were really supportive when I told them that I wanted to go to acting school and be an actor. Luckily for me, I quickly realized I didn’t want to be an actor and subsequently found and fell in love with casting.
Do you think Solomon will encounter issues growing up (with 2 dads) as you did as a child (as gay)? What have been / and what will be your guiding words (actions) to him on how to make him proud of his identity and familial culture?
Look – it’s 2015. With marriage equality having passed by SCOTUS, we are obviously leaps and bounds from when I was growing up gay.
I’m sure he will have some sort of encounter of negativity; my hope is that he doesn’t since we live in a big metropolitan area where not only the arts — but individualism and other cultures are so widely accepted. (It’s different here than living in the south or the middle of the country.) So I would say we have less of a chance for him to really encounter negativity.
Look, Solomon has so many things to learn and understand. First, we need to have the adoption conversation.
Do you insinuate that into the conversation now?
Well, he has spoken to his half-sister and his birth aunt on Facetime. We talk to them often. His birth father is not in the picture and his birth mom has fallen out of the picture, but it’s an open adoption so we will for sure always have it be part of his story. Solomon will make the decision when the time is right. Right now our concern is to keep him safe, happy and healthy. With that said, I don’t know that my childhood experiences growing up gay will in any way be mirrored or mimicked because the world has come so far.
And that is really the truth. I actually had a fairly easy childhood. Maybe one year I was teased and then those people became my friends anyway. It’s a different time. We have so many lesbian and gay family friends …it’s a natural part of the conversation. He sees it around him daily. So I don’t know how uncomfortable or rare it will be to Solomon. I am sure someone will make a wise crack and Solomon will set them straight! He will be fine in the world.
Do you feel the need to make a concerted effort to talk about not being in (what was previously considered) a traditional/nuclear family? Or is it just a natural part of the dialogue?
We make an effort to show that his friends who have two moms, or two dads, or a mom and a dad are all special and lucky for those reasons. And that is the extent.
…and we have a couple books like “Papa and Me.” We tried not to buy books that are just mother and child centric. We try to read books that at least had a mom and dad. We explained that everyone is special and we normalize it.
The woman who started our adoption agency (the IAC) has a Ph.D. and wrote a book that was mandatory reading for us to even begin the adoption process – and although the stories and scenarios were antiquated – their whole methodology behind open adoption really resonated with us. The theory is if you just talk about it, it destigmatizes everything once thought of as shameful and makes it all normal.
The adoption process is a very heart wrenching and grueling process for many. It can take years – assuming it’s bestowed at all. Can you tell me a little about how the process was for you guys? Any tips you have for parents, gay in particular, wanting to adopt?
You know, I’ll be honest and say I held out the longest for not going the adoption route . Partly because of my ego, it took me a year to say let’s do adoption. In my head, I thought it should be one of us [genetically]. But, when we sat down to talk about it, there was so much adoption in our lives. Doug’s brother was adopted, friends in my work life, etc.
Adoption was everywhere. Someone [recommended] to us that we just start the process because it can be such a long journey. You can always back out. But if you don’t start it, then you’re never in it.” So that’s what we did.
We ran into a friend of mine who’s a talent manager. And he told us that he and his husband were awaiting the birth of their son. He is the one who introduced us to IAC. We went to an introductory weekend and decided to go with them.
We got married on Oct 22nd — and the following weekend was the introductory seminar.
So for us, the process took 9 months to the day, which is super uncommon. We were very lucky. And it happened oddly because a neighbor in our condo knew we were going through the process, slipped a note under the door saying that a friend of his who was a director had just gotten a baby through a matchmaker. He gave us her name and number. At the time, the rate was more than we wanted to spend and we were only 3-4 months into our agency process. So Doug called and said we just weren’t financially ready to do this but you sound lovely. And she said, “Well, please remember me.” and Doug responded, “Well, please remember me.”
Then 3-4 weeks later, I was at an all-day work event (TCAs) and my phone was blowing up and I was watching the panel for one of our shows for the Fall launch (Summer TCA) and Doug said we needed to get on a plane and go to Pittsburgh right then. He said, “Nikki called. There is a baby right now.” We weren’t even signed up with her. I went home — and over the next 24 hours, we got the birth mom’s medical records. We spoke to the birth mom who OK’d us to fly there. It was all such a whirlwind. We got on a flight, rented a car — and we went and met the birth mom. And the rest is history.
At one point I thought this was moving too fast and that we shouldn’t be doing this.
Doug said, “Oh, I’m going. This is my baby. I know this is my baby.”
He was born on Sunday, we got the call on Monday. Flew Tuesday. Met him Wed. And we haven’t been separated since.
The crazy thing is the nurses all took to us instantaneously, except for one young pretty nurse who, on our last day, said, “she (the birth mom) has 3 years to take him back, right? And I looked at her and said, “No! He is ours!”
The social worker in the hospital said that we literally changed opinions in the hospital. She said, “to see the love and passion and desire to have this baby, we literally changed people’s opinions on gay adoption.” Which I thought was one of the most epic moments of those 17 days in Philly.
In all the adoption certification classes they repeat the mantra, when your baby is your baby, you’ll know. And you always think, “uh huh, whatever.”
But, it’s true. WHEN YOU GET THAT CALL — YOU KNOW!
What was the first thought that crossed your mind when told there was a baby waiting for you?
Doug was like, It’s mine, let’s go.
I was like, “Let’s see the facts and see what’s up.”
Just so much goes through your head. Even 17 days in Philly waiting for the courts in both states to clear all the paperwork, emotions are so high because there are so many steps and signatures ensuring that everything is kosher. It was high emotions all around. And we were parents for the first time.
I personally felt like a dad the minute we got back to the hotel and we both literally laid at the end of the king-sized bed and stared at him all night. We sat and watched him the whole night.
And when will you know that you have succeeded as a parent?
I remember the first day Solomon and I were in the car and Solomon said, “I’m happy daddy.” Then every day he’d say, “I’m happy.” And I was like JOB DONE, for now!
There is nothing better than being happy and laughing. I remember thinking that very moment was so amazing that he could vocalize he was happy. If I could tell him one thing that I knew would ensure his happiness or his success it would be: follow your dreams, be happy, find love and …love back.
The rest will come and we will be there to support him.
+++ THANK YOU, SETH, DOUG AND SOLOMON FOR THE INTERVIEW AND FOR ALWAYS PUTTING FORWARD THE INSPIRATION.
+++ AND STAY TUNED READERS. In the coming weeks, we have an interview on parenting with ROCK N ROLL MOM/SHOWRUNNER/CREATOR of MARVEL’S AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D., MAURISSA TANCHAROEN WHEDON — as well a fun piece on design secrets by home designer and TV personality, DAVID BRIAN SANDERS!