Willie Garson and Son Nathen: We Both Wanted This Adoption

06/17/2014 at 03:00 PM ET

When Willie Garson adopted his son Nathen in 2009, it was a joint decision.

“We had a smooth transition because we both wanted this adoption. Fatherhood is what I always wanted it to be,” the White Collar star, 50, tells PEOPLE. “I wanted it so badly and he wanted it so badly. I think often it can be difficult because it’s not that balanced.”

And what Garson wanted was to get right to the fun stuff — which is exactly what he did when Nathen, now 12, arrived. “I don’t know what I would have done with a newborn! I would have dropped him, I would have washed him in the dishwasher,” the single dad jokes.

“Nathen could clean himself, he knew how to eat, he knew how to use the restroom. All of these things I got to skip. I’m on my own, so I don’t think I could have handled a kid that was much younger.”

Willie Garson Son Nathen
Catherine Ledner

But while he doubts his skills with a baby, the doting dad does admit his regret at not finding his son earlier. “I do wish I’d met him sooner because I enjoy him so much. Up until six months ago he was always saying, ‘You need to be with me,’ and I’d say, ‘Nathen, in a couple of years you’re not going to say that.'”

Garson continues, “As he becomes a teen, it’s going to be like, ‘Dad, leave me alone!’ It’s gradual. But for now he doesn’t mind me being around.”

The pair, who share a love of food and travel “as long as we stop for ice cream every two hours,” Garson says while recalling a recent European trip with Nathen, have been adjusting perfectly to life as a twosome.

“Nathen and I always talk,” he says. “We talk about everything that a lot of his friends’ parents say, ‘I can’t talk to my kid about that.’ We tend to work it out together because we are partners in this.”

Adds Nathen, “I used to call him Willie, now I call him Dad.”

Father and son have been busy having a blast, which has left little time for Garson’s love life.

“I go out once in a while,” he admits. “But it’s hard for me to justify, when I’m working and I’m away, to then say, ‘I’m going out Tuesday night.’ Where’s the fun in that? I’d just be at the date talking about how my kid is sitting at home and has a math quiz.”

For more from Garson and to read how other celebrity fathers describe their lives as dads, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

— Michelle Ward and Monica Rizzo

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Showing 47 comments

Meg on

Good for him..seems like a great dad..happy for both of them.

sandy on

How nice! I’m sure he’s a wonderful father!! I bet they have a wonderful time together as father & son 🙂

Nan on

This is a really wonderful article. I wish Willie and Nathen all the best and hope their story sways people to consider adopting an older child.


How wonderful. So nice they found each other. Reminds us all that older kids need a family too.

lulu on

I’ve never heard of him but this is a GREAT story! (but what in the world are they cooking????)

naeo1999 on

This is such a sweet story! The very best to them both!!!!!!

Catherine on

Marshmellows. The bag is on the ground on the left side of the photo.

Me on

They are roasting marshmallows. They are the HUGE ones they make nowadays for s’mores. Willie is holding a graham cracker and has some on his right leg and the chocolate is on his left leg. Great…now I have a taste for s’mores!!!

Val on

Aw Stanny! Love this!

Melany on

OMG this is so cute !!! I wish them happiness and love in their life =D

I’m Standing Right Behind You on

What a sweet story…all the best to them both.

myuntidydesk on

Sweet. Always glad to hear about someone adopting an older child. 🙂

caro on

Love love love this story! So glad they found each other! He seems like a great dad!

Jessica on

You can see the love here. Look at that happiness on that child’s face. There are so many ways to have a child in this world, I wish more people would turn to this one.

cali on

I haven’t seen Willie much since he was on Sex & the City – he looks great! and how wonderful that he adopted an older child! What a great dad. 🙂

Jana on

Oh my, this story makes my heart happy!!!!

Kenzi on

This is awesome!! So happy that an older kid got adopted. This made my day 🙂

Angela on

What a wonderful story. So many older children in the foster care system are never adopted and just turned out at 18. What a blessing that Willie was able to recognize that ALL children have worth and deserve to be loved.

Jenb64 on

Best thing I have read ever! Loved him as Stanford Blatch and now on White Collar. How amazing that he adopted an older kid. There are so many older kids in the foster care system. Even one’s that are 15 or older can be adopted and finally get the experience of a family for the rest of their lives. I hope this article opens some eyes and makes people consider adopting older kids. They aren’t all irreversibly damaged, which is often the misconception.

SarahJane on

What a great story! I loved Willie on SATC. I know he was just playing a character, but he always seemed to have such a kind disposition. It’s so wonderful that these 2 found each other. They sound like a great pair. I wish then the best as Nathen grows up. I hope they’re able to maintain that open & honest communication.

Mandy on

I love him on White Collar and I love this story!! They look so happy together, he sounds like a great father. I’m happy for both!

YoCo on

What an inspiring story. So much love.

Mommytoane on

Love the fire pit!
Great story, its nice to see a good one like this that isn’t completely self absorbed, or justifying an action. 🙂

Kata on

This is such a great story. I really enjoy his role on White Collar and the fact that he adopted an older child is wonderful. 🙂 So many older kids looking for loving homes. This seems like a great match.

ellepop on


Chloe on

Adorable, love him! It sounds like it was meant to be with adopting Nathen!!

Dawn S on

Not sure which made me happier—hearing that the family he’s built is built on such a wonderfully strong foundation and his priorities are in his son’s happiness, or reading all the wonderful comments! I’ve always loved his quirky characters. So glad to see his real life is fulfilling!

Kimberly on

This is a great story! I’m very happy for both of them that they get to have a happy father/son relationship!

Natalie on

Awesome story!! Good job People!!

bitsy on

Great story. I loved him in SATC and now White Collar. Great actor and seems like a great dad.

KoiW4 on

Hey! Not a single negative comment on this article! Go People commenters! Go us! And also – hooray for this nice man who could see that a parent can come along much later than birth…

dancer92136 on

This story made me smile from ear to ear.

Amy on

Precious! More positive stories like this one, People!

Amy on

This brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad they found each other!! What a nice family they’ve created.

heather on

This is a great story.

sherry on

Congratulations!! Wonderful!! Amy, daughter, Korea and ADOPTION!!!!!!!

Patty on

Love this story!

Marge on

I’ve always wanted to adopt an older kid. I always feel bad that they’re left alone because they’re not “fresh newborns.” This is an awesome story!!

momof3 on

Awesome! I love adoption stories.

mer on

Awesome story, not a single negative comment! Amazing!

Gina on

Good going Mr. Garson..

Anonymous on

Good for him, great story!

Guest on

This is such a great story…who doesn’t love a happy ending!?!

Here in my state (and in lots of others, I’m sure) there are MANY older kids looking for a forever home. If you think it’s something you are interested in, reach out to your local DCF (or whatever your child advocacy agency is called) office. It’s a little daunting to get through all the training and paperwork, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it in the end. (We’re in the process of switching our foster license to adoptive, so hopefully, we can be in the same boat as these two!)

JMO on

Awww… love this story! How lucky they are to have each other as family.

italianjew82 on

Just so amazing. Really touching… And they wanted each other!

sue on

I understand his feelings. I also adopted an older child later in life. Mine is now grown and gone. No time for dating then.

MM on

Nathen looks so happy, I’m glad he’s in a much better place with this wonderful man.