From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
As Stanford Blatch, Carrie Bradshaw's gay confidant on Sex and the City, Willie Garson was always unlucky in love. But that all changed the day the actor, whose paternal clock had begun ticking loudly, met the boy who would become his son. Attending an L.A. adoption fair in October 2008, Garson spotted a vivacious 7-year-old named Nathen. "He was balancing himself on a curb, and I was like, 'That's my kid,'" says Garson. "I knew it right then."

Now everyone does. After more than a year of screenings and paperwork, Nathen, now 8, was officially deemed Garson's son in January. While Garson's career is soaring-he stars in the hit USA drama White Collar and appears in this summer's Sex and the City movie sequel-it's clear that his new family life is what's keeping the actor, 46, in a constant state of bliss. Says a beaming Garson: "It couldn't have gone any better."

In a perfect world, Garson imagined he would get married and start a family. But three years ago, realizing he was no closer to finding the woman of his dreams, "I just reached a point of 'What am I waiting for?'" he says. "I don't care if I ever get married, but if I never have a kid?"

So Garson contacted the Alliance for Children's Rights, a kids' advocacy group in L.A., and the Westside Children's Center, who guided him through the adoption process. "Most people want infants," says Garson, "but I fell in love with Nathen."

After the adoption fair, Garson and Nathen bonded over several months of supervised play visits and sleepovers. Nathen moved into Garson's three-bedroom L.A. home in February 2009, and when the adoption was finalized in January, they celebrated at famed Hollywood eatery Musso & Frank Grill. "We wore suits and we split a steak, and Manny the waiter did magic tricks," Garson says.

Now in the third grade, Nathen has settled comfortably into family life. "I like to play with Willie on the Wii and give him kisses and hugs," says Nathen with a squeal. "He is the best dad ever." He's even showing signs of following in Dad's footsteps by recently acting in his first school play, Grease. "He played Doody," says the proud papa. "It was the finest production of Grease in history."

While Garson is loving every minute of being a dad, he's already dreading the day when Nathen won't need him anymore. Some nights, when Nathen can't sleep, "he comes to my room, and I say 'Nathen, in four years you're not going to want to talk to me.' And he says, 'No, Dad, I'm always going to want to hug and kiss you.'"