I swear my family has this super power to sense right before I leave for a trip, even if I tell no one. Because those are the exact moments they decide to spring their most ludicrous and exhausting displays of dysfunctional psychopathy. True to form, my mother’s discovery of my son’s existence, and my father’s betrayal of said information happened to fall on the day before my husband and I were to travel to Las Vegas to attend his graduation and educational summit.

We intended to entrust our son’s care for the time we’d be away to my mother-in-law, who graciously accepted the challenge. Even on the best days though, asking anyone to care for him for five days is a lot. Having this new wrinkle in embarrassing dysfunction to explain and plan for is just downright unfair for anyone. And yet, I found myself in the anxiety-ridden night before trying to draft an email that mixed the right amount of cautious optimism, perpetual gratitude, justified paranoia and steadfast fear to properly explain why it is that my mother can’t be in my life, why she must be kept away from my son and how to handle the inevitable contact she will try to make with anyone she thinks might be sympathetic.

It is in these moments that I feel every iota the white trash I was raised, the shame and self loathing roiling in the back of my throat, and the undeniable truth that there are some scars that will never heal and some stains that can never be washed off. Although every fiber of my being cried for me to cancel the trip, stay home, build a moat and price out bulk alligators on eBay, my better half convinced me to go anyway. The opportunity should not be passed up, all expenses paid, and the statistical possibility of my son’s kidnapping and/or murder-suicide by my insane kin small. I relented.

But in my rush to leave, I forgot my cell phone at home, rendering part of my safeguards useless. It would cost more than $100 to overnight the phone, so I would have to do without. The trip went well, a few snags notwithstanding and I dare say that the trip was actually a lot of fun. Although it did rain pretty much the whole time, I did get a chance to walk the strip, exploring the largest Walgreens I’d ever seen, buying a bunch of great beer and cheap provisions. I learned that the easiest way not to get hassled walking back was to carry a giant box with said wares, which made it seem like I worked somewhere on the strip, and therefore exempt from the panhandlers, ticket vendors and sundry weirdos that accumulate in such places.

We had amazing food at some swanky celebrity chefs’ restaurants and even managed to catch the Cirque de Soleil’s Beatles tribute which was probably one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. My husband’s educational summit included the bizarrely unrelated Bruce Jenner as one of the motivational speakers, and that spectacle alone was worth the price of admission. Still, the return home unfortunately was marred by a neck injury from sleeping funny, so riding home was its own special agony.

We arrived home to find the door locked and lights out, and my paranoid mind immediately went to the worst. But, as it turns out, my mother-in-law was preoccupied with getting my son to sleep, and everyone inside the house was thankfully bullet and stab-hole free. With the travel commitments for the month nearly complete, I sank onto the floor with my son I my arms and cried tears of relief. Though I know the war is far from over, we had won another day and that was all I could ask for.