March 05, 2010 06:00 PM

Christa Renee for PEOPLE for use on CBB

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 Oct. 2008, Willie spotted a vivacious 7-year-old named Nathen.

“He has a spark. He was balancing himself on a curb, and I was like, ‘That’s my kid,'” says Willie. “I knew it right then.”

Now everyone does. After more than a year of screenings and paperwork, Nathen, now 8, was officially deemed Willie’s son in January.

While Willie’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 Willie: “It couldn’t have gone any better.”

More from the article and additional photos below!

Christa Renee for PEOPLE for use on CBB

In a perfect world, Willie 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 Willie 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 Willie, “but I fell in love with Nathen.”

After the adoption fair, Willie and Nathen bonded over several months of supervised play visits and sleepovers. Nathen moved into Willie’s three-bedroom L.A. home in Feb. 2009, and when the adoption was finalized in Jan., they celebrated at famed Hollywood eatery Musso & Frank Grill.

“We wore suits and we split a steak, and Manny the waiter did magic tricks,” Willie 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 Willie 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.'”

Christa Renee for PEOPLE for use on CBB

Source: PEOPLE; March 15th issue

— Monica Rizzo

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