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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