Pete Codella in eighth grade

When I was in eighth grade

Watching my son experience eighth grade brings back many negative memories and experiences. Why are kids, and especially boys, so mean in eighth grade?

Dominic’s eighth grade picture

When I was in eighth grade, kids made fun of me because my voice hadn’t changed, because of my name and because I played the trumpet.

my eighth grade picture

Ironically, it was my third year on the trumpet and, thanks to private lessons, I had become one of the best trumpet players in our middle school. It was that competency that brought me self-worth. I was too immature to realize that being a son of Heavenly Father meant He loved me unconditionally and that the praise of my peers was worthless.

I remember coming home and crying about how much I hated my life in eighth grade, how I had no friends and that I didn’t want to go back to school. The kids mocked my parents, my family and my sexuality — just because my voice was higher than most.

It’s not like any of them had a clue either. I didn’t realize that at the time.

Watching Dominic brings back painful memories. People didn’t use the word bully in 1983, but there were plenty of bullies back then.

To add insult to injury, my family moved from Spring, Texas to upstate New York that Christmas. When I went to school in January, I wore my typical cowboy boots, wranglers, belt with “Pete” leather-smithed on the back and button-down plaid shirt. That was a poor choice. I was branded a Rebel (as in being on the wrong side of the Civil War) and mocked mercilessly. Damn Yankees.

One morning, on the bus — the bullies’ favorite playground, unbeknownst to me, they unlocked the latches on my Bach Stradivarius trumpet case. Once we arrived at school, I stood up to leave the bus and everything in my case went tumbling down to the floor of the bus. To this day, I have multiple dents in the bell of my instrument from that humiliating experience, perhaps literally and figuratively.

My eighth grade band photo. Taken in Spring, Texas, before we moved to upstate New York.

My son doesn’t seem to have friends. He’s not very interested in school. And he’s dealing with body shaming by his peers, which I didn’t experience because of my average weight. My heart goes out to him.

At least he’s got some excellent teachers this year. That’s no mistake. It’s a blessing thanks to the time Vickey spent teaching at South Jordan Middle School; she knew the right teachers for Dominic this year.

How do you bestow the wisdom of years and support a teenager dealing with all he’s dealing with in eighth grade — the worst year of adolescence?

I hope I can help Dominic understand his divine worth as a son of God and rich potential to become an amazing, caring, supportive and loving human being. I hope he can find some good friends and learn to ignore the bullies.

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3 Responses to “When I was in eighth grade”

  1. Mextli Edwards September 14, 2018 at 10:18 pm #

    Dominic,

    I’m not that much older than you, and you know, sometimes school is hard and our classmates don’t help too much, but you know what?! It’s gonna get better, you are in the right place and even you may take it for granted, your biggest blessing is having a wonderful, loving family that at the end, when school is over and when you may move, change, grow, etc…. your family always be there and the Gospel will keep them together forever! trust and keep carrying on!

  2. Fr. Billy Clark September 14, 2018 at 6:39 pm #

    Dominic,
    You are loved. And your gifts and talents are needed in this world. Don’t worry if you are uncertain about these gifts or how to use them for you will know, just like your Dad knows know and you will learn.
    Be gentle on yourself and see yourself how God sees you.
    For God sees you through the eyes of love and compassion, through Grace and patience, through building up and never tearing down.
    See yourself that same way. Gently and with great kindness for your heart is bigger than that smile that lights up your face and your love will make this world a better place.
    God bless you and may God remind you of these things if you forget.

  3. Eric Mann September 14, 2018 at 1:05 pm #

    We all experience bullying. And, I’ve got news for you, we called them bullies in the sixties! I was picked on when I was in 10th grade.

    Tell Dominic what my mom told me: You’re going to grow up, you’re going to stand out, and the morons who bullied you will WISH they were you!”

    Get him in a football uniform, or wrestling togs. With his size, he’ll become very popular, very quickly!

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