The internet's son is growing up right before our eyes. Chances are, you've probably seen, or at least heard of, him. His name is Gavin, and over the past few years, he's become not only a digital child for all, but the perfect way to express oneself online. Precious, precocious, and incredibly expressive, his face has been shared countless times online for various reasons.

Feeling petty? There's a Gavin meme for that.

Dramatic? There's one for that, too.

"Kiana," you might be asking yourself, "why are you talking to me about a kid I've known about for years? You so 2000 and late." Well, dear reader, it's because Gavin is officially in the first grade. And it's a big dang deal to the internet—Twitter, in particular—which has claimed Gavin as its own.

That might sound a little weird, but Gavin's real mom, Kate, doesn't think so. "At first, I was kind of like, 'What's going on?'" she said when we spoke on the phone. "But that was a while ago; I think it was last summer or last fall that that really started. Now, I think it's adorable. When people say it—just because so many people do—a lot of their comments are like, 'I would do anything for Gavin,' you know. 'Make sure and protect him.'" 

In addition to sussing out internet creep levels with Kate, we talked about what it's like to be the parent of a kid who's gone viral, plus all things Gavin, like how he prepared for his first-grade photo, how he deals with fame, and if he even knows what a "meme" is.

What made you start sharing pictures of Gavin?
It started back in... oh my goodness, I think it was 2013. It was when Vine first came out, and my brother, Nick Mastodon, he started on Vine the day that it started. He started making Disney Vines and all sorts of things, like Disney mashups and all that. And six months into when he was using the app, he started recording Gavin, who was about two and a half at the time. It was just Gavin playing or them interacting. He started noticing that people were responding to it: that they thought it was cute, these interactions that they were having. And then around that time, Gavin was playing with a lizard. So, that's when the lizard Vine happened; like, he had a lizard on his head, and he made a ton of facial expressions from that.

So at that time, we were both on Instagram, we were both on Twitter and those kinds of things, so we were randomly just posting pictures for our own personal accounts. But we were posting pictures of Gavin and what he was doing day to day, and different things. I think when you're on Facebook or Instagram, people are like, "Oh, another picture of your kid." [Laughs.] But people were actually encouraging us to post pictures, so it's been fun. It's been kind of nice to be able to share pictures of him with everybody.

Awesome. So how's school going? I know his first grade photo is getting a lot of love right now. 
It is! He's loving school right now. He's currently taking ukelele lessons, which is adorable. So every night, he has to get out his uke and practice that, and he's just loving it. He's always asking me math equations, but he knows the answer, so I have him tell me instead. And he's learning to read and all that. First grade is just really fun, they learn so much in that grade. 

Did you talk to him at all before he took his official portrait? 
It was so funny. Before we took the picture—last year's photo, he was kind of making a really forced smile. So that morning, I talked to him and I was like, "Dude, you have your school pictures today, and you look really nice. Let's practice your smile, because you have an amazing smile. But sometimes you kind of... it's super cheesy." So, he sat in the mirror that morning and practiced his smile.

It was so funny because the night that I posted the picture, I had gotten an email from Lifetouch, who had taken all the school photos, and they had sent us a free digital print that went along just because we purchased the package. He was already sleeping at that point in the evening, so he hadn't even seen the picture yet. I was just like, "Well, might as well post it, 'cause it's super cute and I'll probably get a few people who are like, 'Oh my God, super cute!'"

Like an hour into it, I was just like, "Whoa! This is already starting to gain traction." The retweets and the comments were already starting at that point. So I didn't get to show him until the next morning when he woke up, and he was like, "Mom, see, I worked really, really hard on my smile that morning," and I was like, "Aww, honey that's awesome. People really like your picture. You did a good job." [Laughs.]

gavin
Image via Lifetouch

He did a great job. [Laughs.]
It was just so cute. I was like, "Oh, I didn't realize that you put that much pressure on, like you needed to do a really good smile." But yeah, it turned out really, really cute. 

On that note, I definitely saw quite a few tweets where people were like, "Oh, this is our son. This is our son's photo." How does it feel when people call him that? 
At first, I was kind of like, "What's going on?" But that was a while ago—I think it was last summer or last fall that that really started. Now, I think it's adorable. When people say it—just because so many people do—a lot of their comments are like, "I would do anything for Gavin," you know, "Make sure and protect him." [Laughs.]

"Protect Gavin at all costs."
Yeah, exactly. So I just think it's—you never know what kind of reactions you're gonna get on the internet, so I just always think people have been really, really sweet. With any pictures that we take, it's kind of cute to see what people have to say. And I think it's just so funny that it's just a collective—they're just like, "Yeah, this is our child, we're gonna watch him grow up." I've had people who are like, "We're really excited to come to his graduation, you better have a huge graduation party." [Laughs.]

Yeah, we're all pulling up. [Laughs.] Does it ever get creepy, though? 
In the beginning, it was kind of strange. It was like, "OK, whoa... it's getting posted all over." But one thing that we really try to do is really protect his privacy, and make sure that—you know, we're from Minneapolis, but we don't give out where we live, where he goes to school. Just because I want him to still be able to be a kid and not have to worry about anything. So he's good during the school day, or even when we're out shopping or those kinds of things. Sometimes people will ask him for a picture— 

Wow, really?
Yeah, and he always knows to ask an adult first. Most people will come up to me instead, and just say, "Hey!" You know, we'll be shopping at Target, and they'll just be like, "I love Gavin, he's amazing, is there any way we could take a picture?" And I kind of put it back on him: I'm like, "Well, thank you so much for asking me, but you need to ask him, too." Because he's very opinionated, and he will decide if he wants to or not. So I've always left it up to him, which of course he appreciates. 

How often would you say that happens?
It was a lot more during the summer, but it really depends on where we are. We've been going to a lot of concerts in the last year, and when we go to concerts, I think a lot more people do it just because they see other people doing it, and then it's like, "OK, well then it's OK." But I'd say at least a couple of times a week, especially if it's places that people know that we go. Like the Target that we always go to, I think it's just known throughout the whole store. [Laughs.] So people are like, "Oh, OK, this is Gavin's."

This summer at a concert, Gavin came and sat next to this lady on the concrete barricade, and she said, "I don't know if you know this kid, but he looks just like the kid from the memes." [Laughs.] And I said, "What?!" and she said, "Yeah, he looks just like this kid. I should pull up a picture." I was like, "Are you talking about Gavin, from the memes?" And she said, "Yeah," and I said, "That's him!" And she said, "No way!" A lot of people don't know that we're actually from Minneapolis, so it's been kind of funny that way, to run into people. 

How old is he now? 
He will actually be seven on Oct. 29. We're on the official countdown. [Laughs.] And he's so excited. He's really into Minecraft right now, and Pokémon, and all that, so he's been picking out all this stuff right now. And I'm like, "Oh, honey. Let's put the brakes on that."

I assume he loves Halloween then, since his birthday is so close? 
He does. We usually have to do two different costumes, because he can't choose exactly which one. So he can have the at-school one, and then he can wear one on Halloween night. But he's gonna be Kylo Ren from Star Wars this year. 

That's incredible. So does he know what a meme is, and does he know that he is one? 
One question that he does know the answer to is, we ask him if he knows what it is to be famous. And he says that famous means that people want to take pictures with you. And I'm like, "Well, that works!" [Laughs.] I try to explain to him, I'm like, "Honey, there's people all over the world who know who you are." But it's kind of a weird concept to explain. So we ask him what a meme is, and he thinks that we're saying "mean," so no, he doesn't know.

We've shown him pictures, but since he can't read what they say, he just looks at the picture and will laugh. And he's always watching his old videos and all that kind of stuff and laughing. So I'm sure one day, he'll definitely know what it is, but yeah, as of this moment, no. We've tried to explain it so many times, and I think it's hard to explain. Sometimes we'll be out and a group of people will stop me, and a mom will be like, "OK, but what is all of this?" [Laughs.] "Who is your child and why does my child want a picture with them?" So yeah, he doesn't fully know what it is, but he definitely knows that his pictures and videos are out there, and that people know who he is. 

Well, that's as much as I could expect an almost seven-year-old to know. 
Right? I know, it's just so crazy to explain. 

Do you have a personal favorite Gavin meme?
Oh my goodness, there's so many. I have like, three that I really like. One of them is when Gavin's sitting on the couch, and it's like, "When your mom tells you that she didn't get you the gift and then you open it Christmas morning." The best part is that they actually took one of my brother's photos and one of my photos and they Photoshopped Gavin together. 

Oh, really?
Yeah, so it's not even an original. But there's so many Photoshopped things out there, which is hilarious. So yeah, the meme where they Photoshopped Gavin onto himself. And then the one where he was standing underneath the sprinkler, and it says, "When it feels like you've been working for four hours and you've really only been working for 17 minutes." [Laughs.] And then... what's the other one? Oh, the one where he's sitting in the red shirt on the couch and it says, "When you ask your mom a simple question and you get this really detailed answer," or you get yelled at basically for asking something. So I guess those are mom-related ones. I don't know if I'm biased that way, but I just think they're funny. 

That's awesome. Are there any situations or moments where you've regretted posting photos of him online?
I think it was around the holidays last year, right after the election. Somebody took that picture of Gavin where he's sitting with the coffee mug in his hand on the couch, and they put the Clorox symbol, like he was drinking bleach. It was just kind of one of those... it was just heartbreaking to see. It was like, "Oh my goodness, I didn't post this meme, so I don't have control of taking it down." But luckily that one just fizzled out. So it's the stuff like that. It's just like, "Let's do this, guys, but let's do this in good taste." Because at the end of the day, I think sometimes people forget that he is just a seven-year-old kid. But otherwise, everyone's been amazing and it's been fun. 

Would you recommend other parents share so much of their children online? 
You know, it's been kind of crazy. People are like, "How did this happen? How do you do this?" You just never know what's gonna take off, or what people are gonna like online. But we've been really, really careful. If we're going to the Mall of America or anything like that, we try to be really, really careful with at least waiting until we get home to post the pictures. So that's the one thing that I’d advise parents: just to be careful when you're out there and posting current things. And not posting anything that identifies where you live, or those kinds of things, where your child goes to school.

But otherwise, we haven't really had any bad interactions that way. I think it's really up to each family, what they do and all that. And it's been funny, too. My husband is not on social media, so it's been really funny to explain to him and show him the pictures and all that. He recently had a funny experience; he was at work and he has Gavin's picture on his desk, and some guy walked over and the guy started laughing. He's like, "That is hilarious. I can't believe you put that kid's picture at your desk." And somebody was like, "No, that's Adam's kid." And he's like, "No, no, no, no, no. Like, that's really funny, that's the meme kid. I've seen people do this, where they replace all of their grandma's photos on the wall with this kid." And they're like, "No, legitimately, that is Adam's kid." [Laughs.]

After the school picture, some people said that they're gonna print it out and post them at their home, as well. I think that would be hilarious, to actually see people do that. We need to make a deal with the photo company—they can just start sending out pictures to everyone, sending out photo packages. Everyone can have wallet photos.