It was unseasonably warm last weekend, an unusual early taste of summer. There was something about this unexpected treat that made us all kick back a little.
My children were wild with the heat, giddy and candescent. Their voices rising with excitement at the unexpected day of sun, play and water. They stripped off while dripping in sweat and ran through the house chasing each other before collapsing under the cool of the fan.
At one stage I turned on the sprinkler – it was more to water my freshly planted spring garden which was sweltering in the record temperatures than for the kids. But as children do they began to play under it, drawn to the spraying water in the same way I expect that you and I were too when we were young.
Do you remember doing the same thing when you were a kid? That joyous feeling of dancing through the spray, the sun beating down on you. The shrieks of laughter as you jumped the swirls of water while dodging the bindies on the lawn. The freedom of being a kid without a concern in the world.
There was nothing quite as fun as playing in a garden sprinkler.
My youngest two upon hearing the sprinkler’s rhythmical thwack-a-thwack ran to it, stripping the last of their clothes off as they got there.
I sat smiling, caught up in the sight of the magic moment of my two children running through the water, joyous, alive. It was after a good while that I noticed a woman stopped outside my house in her car, she glared at me as I caught her eye.
We live on a corner of two suburban streets. It’s a friendly neighbourhood and our fence is low enough for passers-by to stop and chat. I have usually loved this about my home but on this occasion she didn’t want to chat.
She wanted to castigate me on my naked children.
"You should cover them up" she said. "There are perverts around. Who lets their children be seen naked in public? You don't know what could happen."
"They're kids" I stuttered in explanation taken aback. (Half from the fact that I didn’t really consider my front garden as a public space).
Was it really such a no-no to let small children run naked? Had I missed that memo about society? Where were these prevents? Was I putting my children in danger?
Over the years I have quite often allowed my children to strip off at the beach in the late afternoon and run naked through the gentle waves. They’ve spontaneously jumped in fountains in public squares and when we’ve strayed upon a water play area, they’ve impulsively run through the bubbling jets drenching themselves right down to their nappy - that I’ve then wrenched free before its contents sagged out.
It was mainly when they were quite young – aged one and two – but I didn’t ever think it was wrong.
I’m now second-guessing myself. Was it wrong? Were they in danger? Should I have been more careful?
It's not just kids who love sprinklers. Have a smile at these dogs sussing out where on earth that water is actually coming from. Post continues after video...
A quick straw poll (well, a quick Google search to be exact) shows that this issue has cropped up a lot lately.
The main fear from people is that a photo could be taken of their naked child and could end up being misused inappropriately by an online predator. The other fear is that their child could be targeted by a peadophile in real life.
These are very real fears, whether they are justified or not, overblown or not. It's really up to each individual family to weight up their own feelings towards the perceived (or perhaps real) chance of it happening.
For me though, the woman’s words were a blow.
I always feel safe in my community. Sheltered. Secure. I always feel like my loving, warm neighbours and friends respect our privacy, while also opening their arms to be our village when needed.
I’ve never worried much about my own children running naked in their own front yard. But, maybe sadly she’s right. Maybe, sadly they should cover up.
Maybe I’ve been unwittingly endangering my own children without even knowing it.
So the next time a day like last weekend sneaks up on us and my innocent kids throw aside their clothes to dance in the sprinkler, will I stop them?
Will I cover them with a towel and shelter them from the world?
But what I will do is remember this woman’s words and her glare and I will probably (grudgingly) limit their time running naked and encourage them to put their cossies on.
I will think of her scornful warning while I listen to my children’s joy. I will turn my eyes to the road outside my walls and watch, wary of what’s out there.
Do you think it is ever okay to let young children play naked in public or in their front gardens?